Let the Journey Begin

Erin's Inspirational Journey to Help Cancer Patients

"Life is a journey. Not a destination. Enjoy the moments." This stunningly simple yet resonating quote led a Morgantown teenager to make a huge impact on her community, the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center (MBRCC), and the patients it serves, all in the name of her inspiring Aunt Erin.

Erin Dunmire and Poppy Polak

L to R: Erin Dunmire, Erin "Poppy" Polak   

In January of 2011, Erin Dunmire, director of customer service at WVU Medicine, was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain cancer. The news hit her niece, Erin 'Poppy' Polak, hard. Her aunt's   favorite quote about enjoying all the moments in the journey of life helped her find some comfort during this trying time. Erin immediately underwent surgery to battle the cancer. With her resilience and positive attitude, she was back to work in 3 weeks.

With her aunt's inspiring story and quote in mind, Polak started a fund in 2011 entitled "Let the Journey Begin." Her vision was to endow the  fund in order to sponsor sustaining brain cancer research and to provide comfort care for brain cancer patients being treated at the MBRCC. Erin, Poppy, and their family and friends began selling bracelets and  T-shirts to raise funds.

In 2012, just one short year after the "Let the Journey Begin" fund was established, the group hit that $25,000 endowment-level goal. They weren't ready to stop raising money and awareness though. Through continued hard work, the fund surpassed the $71,000 mark in early 2013.

On May 11, 2013, the group raised $11,140 at the second annual Just Desserts event held at the St. John University Parish in Morgantown. Sponsored by the Let the Journey Begin Fund Committee, the fundraiser included different types of desserts to sample, multiple auction items, and entertainment.

Cancer free now for over two years, Erin's inspiring story continues to make an impact on anyone who hears it. She was recently an invited speaker at the 28th annual MBRCC Gala celebration on April 20, 2013, at The Greenbrier Resort. Her goal was to take the audience through her journey. "We want to make a difference, so that brain cancer becomes a chronic, not a fatal disease," she told the attendees.

Erin was also featured in West Virginia University Health Sciences Center's campus campaign video.

Thanks to the continued efforts of Erin and Poppy, brain cancer patients at the MBRCC have devoted allies who are ready to help them make their journey through cancer treatment and beyond.