Tag Archive | "wendy tarlow"

Take Battle Against Cancer to the Water

Tags: , , ,

By Emily J Weitz

Cancer is a vicious beast that virtually everyone has faced in some way or another. But for all the destruction that cancer has caused, it has also had a way of bringing out the warrior in people. This weekend, Swim Across America takes place here with the Hamptons Open Water Swim. This national organization has found a strong foothold here with representative and cancer fighter Wendy Tarlow who has been involved with the swim since it started on the East End three years ago.

“I got involved on a minor level,” she says, “because it was helpful to me. I wanted to get involved with something positive.”

In a fight against an elusive, ever-changing enemy, cancer patients often feel that so much is out of their control.

“This is something I can control,” says Tarlow, who lives in Sag Harbor. “The [Swim Across America board] doesn’t know what fuels this massive enthusiasm. But I say it’s something that’s driving me, fueling some intention towards wanting to get better and make a difference.”

Tarlow has worked with a variety of cancer organizations, but she’s passionate about Swim Across America because all the proceeds go right to research, and that’s what’s going to save lives.

“It’s about cancer research,” she says. “This money is going directly to hospitals and patients. It’s not going to CEO’s pockets. Everyone who works for Swim Across America is a volunteer.”

As a result of the successes of Swim Across America, the organization has been able to fund groundbreaking research projects.

“The swim has its own lab at Sloan-Kettering,” says Tarlow. “They came out with the first melanoma vaccine last year, and the hope is that they’ll come out with less toxic drugs. This is truly giving me some hope, some amount of control to feel like I’m a part of research on some level.”

Tarlow has been called “Tornado Tarlow” by the people at Swim Across America because of her success in fundraising and raising awareness. She was asked to be part of their Executive Committee that is involved with swims across Long Island.  She is investing in building the Hamptons Open Water Swim, because she believes it could become a 1 to 2 million dollar fundraiser in the years to come.

Wendy is not the only warrior on Team Tarlow and Hand. More than 40 people will be swimming for the team this weekend, and they’ve already raised over $50,000. Tommy Hand, formerly of Sag Harbor, was a friend of Tarlow’s growing up, and they were diagnosed with cancer at the same time.

“When I was diagnosed,” says Hand, “I went right to the American Cancer Society and started doing volunteer hours.”

Before he got sick, he valued volunteering. But once he was diagnosed, he really began to understand what it was to need help.

“At some time,” he says, “we all need it, and if you don’t put some money in your bank it may not be there when you need it. I think if you build up your karma, or your good acts, I don’t think you’ll be left alone.”

Part of it is having the support of the community around you so you don’t go it alone, says Hand. But the other part is making an impact.

“You want to leave something behind,” says Hand. “You want to leave that you were a good person. Then you never die. Maybe you taught someone about their life through your life, and then they teach someone else. By making an impact, you live right on here on Earth, by living through others.”

The Hamptons Open Water Swim will take place this Saturday, July 7 from 6 to 10 a.m. The Swim starts and ends in Amagansett at Fresh Pond Beach. There is a half mile swim, a mile swim, and a three-mile swim. You can sign up the day of the event or in advance at www.swimacrossamerica.org. Adults 18 and over need to raise (or donate) at least $500 and swimmers younger than 18 need to raise at least $300.

On Sunday evening, July 8, Tommy Hand will host a casual potluck barbecue at Long Beach where people can drop a few dollars in a bucket to support cancer research. All are invited to bring a dish and a lawn chair and meet the community to support each other.

“I want everyone in one place at one time,” he says. “I want to show everybody that their help has made a difference, that I am still around. I want everyone to know each other like they used to and help each other like we should.”

It Takes a Village-7/5/12

Tags: , ,

The people in this village are amazing. They really are. While it’s easy to forget that fact in the midst of our harried and hurried lives in which we find ourselves rushing to get to work, avoiding the crowds or getting our children to focus on cleaning their rooms, there are people here who constantly remind us of the importance of community — especially during tough times.

No one embodies that sentiment better then Wendy Tarlow and Tommy Hand, two Sag Harbor natives who both know the struggles of cancer personally. Yet in the midst of their own battles, both have chosen to join the wider fight against cancer by actively participating in fundraising efforts like this weekend’s Swim Across America to raise money for all cancer sufferers.

In fact, Wendy, a.k.a. “Tornado Tarlow” and her team have become a fundraising force to be reckoned with in recent years and Tarlow’s personal ongoing dedication to the Swim Across America organization has been remarkable and unwavering. Her childhood friend, Tommy, who has given back as a volunteer with the American Cancer Society, is part of Wendy’s fundraising swimming team now, and even flew up to Sag Harbor from Florida, where he now lives, so he can take part.

Hand notes how the support of community not only helps those suffering through tough times feel less alone, but it also goes a long way towards making a lasting impact on the lives of others. It’s a legacy that shouldn’t be underestimated — just look at how 12-year-old Katy Stewart, who died of cancer in late 2010 — still makes an impact in the form of the many fundraising efforts that continue in her name.

For Hand, this sort of community involvement through thick and thin is what Sag Harbor is, and has always been, about. On Sunday evening, a casual potluck barbecue on Long Beach will provide an opportunity for all of us to pause in our busy lives, stop by and say hello and thank you to Tommy and Wendy and all those folks who are doing their part. And while you’re there, drop a few bucks in the bucket to support their fundraising efforts.

After all, it’s the reliance on friends, family and neighbors that helps us get through everything. The ups, the downs … the good times, the bad … this thing we call life.

Swimming for a Cure

Tags: , , , , , , ,


When Wendy Tarlow her partner, Claudia Patino Tarlow, welcomed their son Logan into the world in the spring of 2009, life was never more perfect for the Sag Harbor couple. A few months later, however, life would become all the more precious.

After battling with medical issues for the better part of three years, in July of 2009 Wendy was diagnosed with Follicular Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“Everything went from being perfect — living in Sag Harbor, buying a house from my dad, being a mother, exactly where I had always wanted to be — to boom, cancer,” said Wendy.

So she began a slew of grueling treatments in an effort to beat her cancer, drawing on the support of her family including her young son during her battle.

“I don’t think I would have made it through the last three years without him,” said Wendy. “He is a constant source of strength.”

Wendy has also found strength in fighting for other cancer survivors — not only in a quest for a cure, but for less toxic treatments as well to fight the disease in its many facets.

An advocate and administrator of the Beautiful and Bald Barbie movement, which successfully lobbied for the creation of bald Bratz and Moxie Girl “True Hope” dolls as a source of inspiration for children with cancer, Wendy also became involved with the Sag Harbor not-for-profit, Fighting Chance. Founded by Duncan Darrow in 2002, Fighting Chance was the first free cancer counseling and resource center on the East End and it provided Wendy with support during her battle with cancer. Fighting Chance also proved to be a source of inspiration for the former fitness trainer with a knack for website development.

While at the not-for-profit, Wendy happened across a poster promoting the first “Hamptons Swim to Fight Cancer,” a Swim Across America event organized by the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad.

Because Wendy was still reeling from treatment and unable to compete, Claudia quickly jumped at the opportunity to swim on her partner’s behalf and Team Tarlow was born.

“What is great about Swim Across America is it is the huge national organization with a number of events across the country and all of the money goes directly to research,” said Wendy.

The swim, which will be held this year on July 7 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. starting at Fresh Pond in Amagansett, offers swimmers the chance to compete in 3 mile, 1 mile and ½ mile courses. Swimmers fundraise by collecting pledges from residents and businesses and swimmers under age 18 must raise $300 to compete, while those over 19 are required to raise $500. Beneficiaries of the swim include Fighting Chance, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Children’s Hospital Montefiore, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Team Tarlow raised about $7,000 its first year, adding to an overall fundraising goal of close to $100,000. Team Tarlow continued to grow in 2011. This year, Wendy and fellow Sag Harbor resident Melissa Ann Mitchell built a website for the event as well as a fan page and have been marketing Swim Across America through social media sites like Facebook.

Team Tarlow has also evolved into Team Tarlow & Hand, with Sag Harbor native Thomas Hand throwing his support behind the group.

“Tommy and I grew up together,” said Wendy. “I was a summer person from across the street, but we were both diagnosed with cancer at the same time.”

While Hand lives in Florida, he frequently visits the East End and has dedicated himself to helping fundraise for the “Hamptons Swim to Fight Cancer,” said Wendy. “The weight of his support is palpable.”

Wendy is hoping this year she is strong enough to complete the swim herself, but knows if she is not she will have an army of friends, family and community members behind her.

“We have 45 swimmers on our team right now,” said Wendy. “Last year we had seven. I owe a large part of this to Tommy.”

The event has already raised $55,079 of a $125,000 goal, with Team Tarlow & Hand raising over $26,000 on their own. But for Wendy, there is no end in how large this fundraiser could become and certainly no end to the kind of critical cancer research it supports.

“What I love about this and why I am involved is because almost 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to cancer research and everyone involved is a volunteer,” said Wendy. “For me, this is looking for a drug that can save lives.”

Team Tarlow & Hand will host a fundraiser at B. Smith’s in Sag Harbor on June 14 from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information on the swim, to sign up, donate or volunteer, visit http://www.teamtarlowsaa.com.

Hope Barbie Plays a New Role

Tags: , , ,

web Wendy Tarlow 1-16-12_9394

By Emily J Weitz

Last week, 40,000 people liked “Bald and Beautiful Barbie” on Facebook. This week, it was up to 120,000. The social network giant has become a mechanism for grassroots change of all sorts, and this time it’s a movement to help children fighting cancer maintain a sense of pride.

Barbie’s flowing golden tresses may be one of her most obvious characteristics, but without them, she’s still Barbie. That’s what Wendy Tarlow, Sag Harbor resident, cancer fighter and administrator of the Facebook-page-gone-viral hopes.

The story of the bald Barbie began when the CEO of Mattel, Inc., the manufacturer of the 53-year-old iconic doll, had one bald Barbie made for a friend’s little girl, Genesis Reyes, a 4-year-old cancer patient on Long Island. Word of the story sparked Jane Bingham, a cancer patient from New Jersey, and Beckie Sypin, the California mother of a cancer patient, to create a Facebook page to try to get the doll made.

“I heard about it on Cancer Chicks, one of my Facebook groups,” says Tarlow. “I liked it and shared it and I saw they just weren’t getting very far. They had, maybe 40 ‘likes,’ so I asked if they wanted help.”

Tarlow, who has a background in fundraising and recently helped raise over $10,000 for Swim Across America for cancer research, has started tapping into other Facebook groups, particularly cancer pages for kids. News organizations across the country are reporting on Bald and Beautiful Barbie, and Mattel, said Tarlow, is under a lot of pressure to make this doll.

“You look at Mattel’s Facebook page now,” said Tarlow, “and it’s pages and pages of requests for this.” Posts like “Dear Mattel, Please consider making three bald Barbies named Hope, Faith and Charity…” to “Dear Mattel, If you don’t make a doll with no hair I’m sure some other company will. It would be dumb not to…” fill the responses on the company’s wall.

Facebook has been helpful for Tarlow since her own battle with cancer began.

“I used to think Facebook was ridiculous,” she says. “But when I was in and out of treatment, I was sick so much of the time and felt so alone, Facebook made me feel connected. There was only so much my family could hear. Most people dealing with cancer feel that family and friends don’t understand. They want to hear you’re doing well, not the bad news… Facebook connected me to other sources of support.”

In fact it was where she met and became friends with Bingham on the Cancer Chicks page. So it made sense that she went down that same avenue to reach out and raise awareness for this cause.

The first bald Barbie was made when little Genesis confessed that she “didn’t feel like a princess anymore,” according to Tarlow.

“What better way to make a child feel like a princess than to make a Barbie doll that looks like her,” she asked.

According to reports in media such as the Los Angeles Times and MSNBC, Mattel, Inc. is non-committal about actually producing a bald Barbie.

“Mattel appreciates and respects the passion that has been built up for the request for a bald Barbie doll,” Mattel told the Times. “As you might imagine, we receive hundreds of passionate requests for various dolls to be added to our collection. We take all of them seriously and are constantly exploring new and different dolls to be added to our line.”

Since the Bald and Beautiful Barbie campaign launched, a movement for a Bald GI Joe began as well, also organized by the women. Its manufacturer, Hasbro, has responded positively, claimed Tarlow, who said most of her time is now spent boosting that page’s viewership, although no promises have been made.

“I think just the fact that people have jumped on this bandwagon creates solidarity,” she said.

That solidarity, and that gathering behind a cause, has given Tarlow strength in the years since she was first diagnosed.

“It’s a f—— hard road,” she says. “But raising money gives me a sense of hope.”

She recalled when she was honored last year for her extraordinary contributions to Swim Across America.

“When I was brought up onstage and given a plaque along with another guy going through this, we hugged and cried,” she said.

The hope is that, if and when the Bald Barbie is made, proceeds will go to research children’s cancers.

“Mattel did a breast cancer Barbie two years ago,” Tarlow said. “That pink ribbon has raised enough money that they have found cures and treatments. But kids’ cancer is underfunded.”

According to the Children’s Cancer Fund of America, 46 children are diagnosed with cancer every day in this country. Cancer is still the number one disease killer of children.

“It’s time to get this doll made,” says Tarlow.

As she rallies behind the cause, Tarlow can’t help but think of Katy Stewart, the young Sag Harbor resident who lost her battle with cancer last year.

“I think of Katy, and all the supporters in this community,” she said. “If this doll was made when she was alive to see it, I would have been the first to go and give it to her.”