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Cover Story: Louanne Roark – A Passion for Service

By: Karen A. Newman
Posted: February 11, 2008, from the February 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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“And, I can’t say enough about the 10,000 volunteers who support the program or the countless health care professionals who refer patients to LGFB across the country,” says Roark. “Each and every one of these supporters makes a positive difference in our ability to reach and serve women, men and teens with cancer. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Most of the program volunteers are beauty professionals who Roark says are natural educators—a trait that comes through effortlessly in the LGFB programs. “Participants immediately feel it and respond positively,” she says. “Every time I attend a LGFB workshop, I always leave feeling grateful for their contributions and hoping that I might be able to emulate even a small percentage of their generosity and kindness. Day after day, they go out of their way to help others—using their own time and sometimes even their own resources to give a part of themselves to make someone else’s day brighter and more hopeful.”

Of the LGFB participants, Roark says she admires “their resilience, courage and humor in the face of an often frightening and overwhelming illness. Their embrace of life and appreciation of the things that really matter offers an example to each and every one of us to appreciate what we have and those who love and care for us.”

A Changing Landscape
While a great deal of effort goes into the participant program, attention is continually being paid to the environment in which LGFB operates, an environment Roark says has changed significantly in the past 10 years. Cancer treatments have become more targeted; early diagnosis is offering patients a greater opportunity for successful treatment. What’s more, AIDS, diabetes and heart disease, in particular, now aggressively compete for mind share among consumers and funders alike, decreasing the attention on cancer and cancer support programs such as LGFB. However, cancer diagnosis numbers remain at more than one million new cases each year. “As a result, the need to educate our target audience and the public about our service remains high, so our challenge is to deliver our message and reach our audience in a more crowded, competitive ‘market space’,” says Roark. The good news is that LGFB stands alone in the programs it offers.

Still, it is against this landscape that LGFB must focus on clearly defining how the program should grow, and creating ways to reach the goals it sets. “Another change we are watching carefully and employing strategies to address is the changing state of information delivery, educational models and cancer treatments to ensure that LGFB remains modern and relevant and continues to offer a service that is [of] high value to participants,” says Roark. She and her team are looking at ways in which they can take advantage of technology, and they are considering webcast technology to deliver virtual LGFB workshops to participants in remote or isolated areas. There is much value to being part of the program with other participants, says Roark. “When they sit together in that room, you see magic happen. They are nervous at first and relaxed and laughing in 10 to 15 minutes.” They leave knowing there are others they can keep in touch with. Roark believes that virtual program delivery could still give participants that important benefit.