With their pink head boppers, pink boas and pink tutus, the three members of team Pacesetter’s Big Ol’ Shanty’s look like many other walkers on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®. Talk with them, and their stories are also very familiar – they walk for loved ones and fellow coworkers who have been lost to cancer or who are survivors. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover a company who so whole-heartedly backs its associates that in 2014, they will make the single-largest donation to a Komen 3-Day team….ever.
The Pacesetter’s Big Ol’ Shanty’s get their name from the amazing company they work for, Pacesetter Steel Service, which happens to be located on Big Shanty Road in Kennesaw, GA. Steve Leebow founded Pacesetter Steel Service in 1977. As a young man, Steve worked in his family’s steel distribution center in New Jersey, where his passion for the industry was cultivated. By 1977, Steve ventured out and opened his own company in Atlanta, GA. Through the first 10 years, a small but dedicated group of Pacesetter associates established a steady routine of long hours, customer focus, and teamwork to grow the company. Many associates who helped build Pacesetter from its early beginnings still work for the company. Aviva Leebow, Steve’s daughter, was recently named the new CEO of Pacesetter Steel Service.
It’s Aviva who started the 3-Day team in 2013. “My grandmother, Joan Leebow, died at the age of 44 from breast cancer,” Aviva begins. “I never knew her. I grew up inspired by her story and everything I learned about her. Her world was focused on caring, sharing and giving. For my 30th birthday, I wanted to do something impactful. I chose the 3-Day. This is something she absolutely would have loved to have seen. I’ve always wanted to walk in her honor.”
While her grandmother was her original inspiration for wanting to walk the Atlanta 3-Day, Aviva mentions a number of other loved ones – including fellow Pacesetter associates – who have been lost to cancer. So last year, she started a small but mighty team with one fellow coworker, Corri Green. “Half way through the walk last year, Corri and I looked at each other and said, ‘We are doing this next year,’” laughs Aviva. So here they are in 2014 – hitting the pavement again, and they’ve gained a third team member, their friend, Jessi Whittemore.
So far this season, Pacesetter’s Big Ol’ Shanty’s has raised nearly $10,000. Both Aviva and Corri applaud the company and acknowledge that they couldn’t do this without their support. Their fellow Pacesetter associates hold fundraisers for months leading up to the event, giving of their time, their money and their support for these women who will walk 60 miles over three days. On Friday, all Associates at Pacesetter headquarters took an aerial photo of themselves using a droid, rooting the team on to keep the team motivated while walking. And Steve believes so much in the power of teamwork and in the Susan G. Komen mission that he is going to make sure Pacesetter’s Big Ol’ Shanty’s raises at least $50,000 this year. Utilizing money from a fund created in memory of Claudia B. Waters, Pacesetter wrote a check to the 3-Day for more than $40,000.
Steve visited the Atlanta campsite on Saturday night to share a little about why he is giving so generously to the 3-Day. “Fifteen years ago, one of our very first associates in our company, Claudia B. Waters, had the misfortune of getting breast cancer. And the entire company pulled together to try to do whatever we could to help her face the challenge,” Steve recounts. “Our many years of friendship with Claudia truly touched our lives. Her vitality was a constant source of encouragement to each Pacesetter associate, our suppliers and our customers. We miss her steadfastness, her dedication, her life.”
Aviva asks that we also recognize that there are many other Pacesetter associates who have battled breast cancer as well as Pacesetter family members.
As Aviva tends to some hot spots on her feet at Lunch on Day 2 of the 2014 Atlanta 3-Day, she describes an experience the team had a few miles earlier. “We were in Whole Foods and a woman saw us coming out of the bathrooms with our pink tutus,” she shares. “She came up to us and said, ‘I’m officially clear as of 11 days ago! Thank you for walking.’ It’s those moments when you know and see the effect this walk has. It makes it all worth it.”
Corri agrees. “We’ve already committed ourselves to next year,” she says with a big smile.
Thank you, Pacesetters Steel Service and team Pacesetter’s Big Ol’ Shanty’s. You are helping bring us closer to a world without breast cancer.