NEW YORK — Starting off Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the national spotlight, Pink Ribbon Girls President Heather Salazar and her family made an appearance on “Megyn Kelly TODAY.”
Salazar appeared on the show Wednesday with her husband Steve and their children, Caleb, Cara, Christian and Lexi, to share the inspiring story of their family’s experiences with breast cancer.
While on live television, Salazar was surprised with a $10,000 donation to help Pink Ribbon Girls continue their mission.
Turning to host Megyn Kelly, Salazar told her, “That would be about 1,400 meals,” which Kelly repeated to the audience.
Pink Ribbon Girls Director of Marketing Sarah Gillenwater, who accompanied the Salazar family on the trip, described the experience as “humbling.”
“We did not expect that at all, we were just looking forward to the exposure,” she added.
She’s hopeful that the national attention will enable the program to expand beyond the Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus metro areas.
“On the national level, the exposure could mean so many things for us, being able to take this outside of the state of Ohio,” Gillenwater said. “We would love to go national.”
The Pink Ribbon Girls provide free services to breast and women’s reproductive cancer patients, including transportation to treatment and appointments, and meals for the whole family.
The organization got a call from NBC producers last week who saw her story in Woman’s Day magazine and wanted to feature Salazar and her family on the show, Gillenwater said. Within a few days, a crew came out to Tipp City and Troy and filmed a segment with the Salazars.
In that segment, Tipp City native Salazar shared the story of how she and her husband adopted the baby of a woman named Alexis Preston, who was battling Stage IV breast cancer.
Preston, a 23-year-old single mother, was struggling to care for herself and her 8-month-old daughter, taking public transportation to and from treatment. She wanted to find someone who could love and care for her baby, Lexi, Salazar recalled.
She found Salazar through a family friend in 2002.
“I spent three days praying on it. My husband and I hadn’t talked about adopting — we already had three little kids, so we thought we were done — but after four nights of tossing and turning, I told him, ‘I think we’re supposed to adopt this baby,’” Salazar wrote in Woman’s Day.
Preston passed away at the age of 24, not long after the Salazars gained full custody of Lexi. Lexi immediately became part of the family; she and sister Cara, who are less than a year apart in age, told Kelly on Wednesday that they act “like twins.”
Before she died, Preston had stressed the importance of self-breast exams to Salazar. A year and a half later, Salazar found a lump and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I was just dumbfounded. I was so angry,” Salazar said in the segment. “It turned out that I had the exact same aggressive breast cancer that Alexis had.”
Fortunately, she was diagnosed at Stage I and her cancer responded well to treatment. She credits Preston’s advice to perform a self-exam with saving her life.
In 2007, Salazar met Pink Ribbon Girls founder Tracie Martin at a conference for young cancer survivors, and joined the organization. She later became president and CEO.
The organization has grown in the last 10 years to provide services to women and their families in Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus. They provide thousands of meals, house cleanings and rides to appointments funded by donations and sponsorships.
For more information about Pink Ribbon Girls, visit www.pinkribbongirls.org.
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