Tammy Gail calls herself the plate spinner. She doesn’t work in the food industry, but she always has something on her plates. And she never lets them fall.
Gail is a business owner, a single mother, a breast cancer survivor, active in the community, and the founder of Glam-A-THON, a non-profit started in 2006 to help women with breast cancer. The organization is known for its fundraising events that can only be described as “glam.”
In the last three years, the non-profit has donated $266,000 through Broward Health, assisting women ages 25 to 55 – the range in which Gail says women are starting careers, earning money and raising children. “When you’re enjoying and embracing life, you don’t have time to stop,” she says.
Glam-A-THON board members play hard, but they also work hard to make events bigger and better each year – yielding more fun, more fundraising and more women helped.
And she proves her dedication to the cause by driving more than 500 miles per month from her 40-acre farm in Ocala to Fort Lauderdale, where Glam-A-THON is based.
Gail says the drive is worth it because she knows what the women helped by her organization are going through. Upon diagnosis in 2003, she was a 38-year-old single mother with sole custody of her son. She had her own marketing company that was beginning to flourish. And she had plans to attend a New Year’s Eve party after the doctor’s appointment where she found out she had breast cancer.
“It was the beginning of a new year and an entirely new life, but I didn’t know it at that moment,” she says.
No longer in the party-going mood, Gail got into her car, put her head in her arms on the steering wheel and cried. The first person she called was her sister, who assured her they would find the best help available and that she was going to be alright.
Three weeks into the new year, Gail checked into the hospital for what she believed would be a routine lumpectomy. But at the doctor’s suggestion, she received a double mastectomy as a preventative measure. She endured four months of chemotherapy, taking six rounds every three weeks.
She knows how taxing treatment can be on a family. She knows chemotherapy and radiation and surgeries are so exhausting that most women don’t have the strength to drive themselves to and from treatment or cook dinner for their families.
That’s where Glam-A-THON comes in.
The foundation is different because where most cancer organizations only help with medical expenses, Glam-A-THON provides any service that a woman might need, such as transportation or catering, so that she can focus on getting well.
Gail recently celebrated her 10th anniversary of being cancer-free.
“The condition is that when you are well, it’s your turn,” she says. “You have to do something to help somebody else.” And that’s what she’s doing now.
Gail and her team strive to focus the events on having fun, because humor played such an important role in her life during treatment.
Participants chant, cheer, dance and even perform skits on stage in various events. One of the most popular is the Glam Doll Strut, where thousands of “divas” strap on stilettos and strut down the streets of downtown Fort Lauderdale in their most fabulous attire.
“If you can’t laugh at yourself when you’re bald, you are never going to be able to laugh at yourself,” she says.