Driving in Virginia Beach, you may notice a familiar, though larger-than-life face: our own Cassi Fritzius, Executive Assistant to Dean Douglas, on a billboard promoting breast cancer awareness.
"I was very honored that the local affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation asked me to take part in the billboard campaign because there are 20 of them in 20 different locations. These are all local women in the Tidewater area who are survivors," Fritzius said. "You may know me from school. Others may know me from my motorcycle club, or quilting. So there is a face that many will recognize."
In addition to serving as one of these familiar faces, Fritzius - a five-year breast cancer survivor - has been involved in numerous other breast cancer fundraising and awareness endeavors over the past eight years. Every October, in observance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Cassi raffles off one of her hand-made quilts. This both draws attention to breast cancer and raises money for the local affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
This year's quilt raffle raised over $1,600. "The quilt is just another way to make people aware of breast cancer and to raise some money, too, hopefully," Fritzius explained. "Every dollar counts. We don't have to be a $1,000 contributor; we can be a $1 contributor, and it still counts."
Fritzius was moved to tears when she heard that the quilt raffle winner, Shanda King, a second-year law student, will give the quilt to a fellow law student's 24-year-old friend - someone King has never met - who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Fritizius wrote that "it was a most generous gift ... something that you can't put a price tag on ... and this is why I am glad to work at the Law School."
"As a breast cancer survivor, you can't even begin to understand what this means to me personally," Fritzius wrote in an email to the Law School community. "When people are aware that anyone can get breast cancer ... and that includes a small percentage of men ... you need to do whatever it takes to give someone another birthday. And those birthdays are so much more meaningful once you have made the journey to life after breast cancer."
Fritzius worked closely with William & Mary President Taylor Reveley during his tenure as Law School dean. "Cassi is a marvel. She lives life with a great capacity to focus on what needs doing and then get it done, an abiding optimism, and an infectious delight in the people and goings on around her," said Reveley. "She brought these strengths to bear in her fight to rid herself of breast cancer, and she uses them now in her efforts to raise money for research and treatment of this cruel disease."
Law School Dean Davison M. Douglas said Fritzius's efforts were in character with the dedication and spirit that she brings to her work at the Law School. "Cassi is someone who always is quick with a hug and a kind word for everyone who works here," Douglas said. "Everyone at the Law School - faculty, students, and staff - admires her advocacy efforts."
Fritzius first began raising money for breast cancer awareness and treatment through the Old Dude's Motorcycle Club. In 2001, the group conducted its first "Ride for the Cure."
"It started with 50 bikes, and we made $800," she recalled. "As the time has gone on, we have expanded to the point where at least 225 bikes roll out with us, and we have, in the last eight years, raised more than $86,000 that we have contributed to the local affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation."
Fritzius stressed that simple steps, such as annual mammograms for women over 40 and self-exams for all women, can drastically increase breast cancer survival rates.
"When breast cancer is found early enough, statistically I think most women can look forward to at least five-year longevity," Fritzius said. "As my husband always says, by doing this - raising money and being aware - it gives me another birthday every year."