Chyloe Frank believes that a cure for breast cancer will come in her lifetime.
“That’s my goal,” said Frank, who was diagnosed with the disease three years ago at the age of 35. “I have a 9-year-old daughter, and I don’t want her to have to worry about it.”
Frank isn’t the only one who has that goal. Breast cancer will soon surpass lung cancer as the most common type of cancer. Though the five-year survival rate is 89 percent, in 2005, more than 500,000 people died from the disease.
BMW of North America has teamed up with the Susan G. Komen Foundation for a Cure in order to help bring about an end to the disease. Each year, the luxury automobile maker holds The Ultimate Drive, an event in which individual BMW dealers allow people to test drive BMW models and, for each mile driven, donate $1 to the local Komen affiliate. In Central New York, Burdick BMW at Drivers’ Village participates in the event, which took place this year on Saturday Sept. 13.
“It’s great because we’re not asking people to go into their own wallets,” said Kate Flannery, executive director of Susan G. Komen for the Cure of Central New York. “You don’t have to be of a certain wealth to give. You just have to drive.”
For the nationwide, 305-day event, BMW has a fleet of about 10 cars that travel from dealership to dealership, 210 in all. The dealership designs a route for the drivers to follow — here in Central New York, drivers leave Drivers’ Village, get on Route 481 South, take it to Northern Boulevard and come back. BMW donates $1 to Komen for each mile driven.
“It’s a nice way people can donate without reaching into their own pockets,” said Livvy Kronhaus, also of Komen CNY. “Last year, we had a single mom who was a survivor. She didn’t have a lot, so she couldn’t afford to make a big donation. But she came and she drove 10 different cars 10 miles each. So she donated $100 without having to give anything of her own.”
The transportation from dealership to dealership also counts.
“After we finish in Cicero, we drive the cars to Binghamton, where the next dealership on the tour is,” Kronhaus said. “And that mileage is included in the donations from BMW.”
Hosts with the most
The event wouldn’t be possible without the support of the individual dealerships who choose to host it each year. Amy Robbins of 93Q, who acted as emcee for the event, said as much in her opening remarks.
“If we didn’t have such a great host family,” Robbins said, “we wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Kelly Pelcher of Burdick BMW said they were offered to host the event 12 years ago and never looked back.
“This event is offered to all dealerships by BMW,” Pelcher said. “It’s optional. We chose to do it because it’s a cause that’s close to our hearts. We’re partnered with Komen and have been for years. We have personal closeness to breast cancer survivors. It’s just a great cause.”
Pelcher said she was thrilled with the turnout at Saturday’s event.
“This is our best turnout yet,” she said. “We’ll probably raise about four or five thousand [dollars], maybe more.”
In the 12 years that the event has been going on, it has raised about $11 million for the Komen Foundation nationwide.
In addition to sponsoring the drive, Burdick also offered lunch, raffles and prizes. Participants also had the opportunity to pen their name on the signature car, another BMW vehicle that travels from dealership to dealership. It features photos of numerous survivors as well as facts about breast cancer.
In honor of those who survived
Indeed, the event is all about honoring survivors. The morning kicks off with a survivors’ drive. In Cicero, 16 local survivors each drove the route, complete with a police escort.
“It’s really cool to see,” Kronhaus said.
Another highlight: each year, a local breast cancer survivor is recognized as a hero. She must be not only a survivor, but someone who has shown dedication and commitment to helping the Komen Foundation in its mission to find a cure.
This year’s hero was Frank, a survivor from Syracuse who not only volunteers her time at Komen, but has also had the largest team at the local Race for the Cure every year for the last three years. Her team raised $20,000 last year, and Frank said she intends to keep going.
“I’ll raise $50,000, $100,000, whatever it takes to find a cure,” she said.
Frank said, while the award “means the world to me,” she couldn’t accept it only for herself.
“I accept it on behalf of all survivors, all co-survivors, everyone who’s been touched by breast cancer,” she said. “We’re all in this together.”
Frank said events like The BMW Ultimate Drive keep breast cancer in the spotlight and remind people of the importance of finding a cure, a cure she is sure will come soon.
“We will find a cure for breast cancer,” Frank said. “We will make this a disease of the past.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.