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Monday, February 24, 2014

Street Class: The Woman of the Year Nominee from North Ft. Thomas Avenue



When Ft. Thomas native Jamie Baker returned to the University of Dayton for her fourth year of college in 2006, the last thing on her mind was fighting cancer. Baker, 29, was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia on October 9, 2006. "Nobody plans to ever have to deal with that," said Baker. She spent 25 days in the hospital undergoing treatments at St. Luke East (currently the location of St. Elizabeth East). Baker has officially been in remission for seven years, and is now in the running to be crowned The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Woman of the Year.

Battling cancer had an impact on Baker's perspective on life. "I guess I have a different approach to things now," said Baker. "When you have cancer, you literally have to take it second by second, not just day by day." Cancer has helped Baker to overcome life's daily challenges easier than before her diagnosis. She often reminds herself that she has overcome much bigger obstacles in the past, and applies that to her everyday life. "I think that whole mindset comes from having to overcome a huge challenge like cancer," said Baker.


One of the main life lessons Baker has taken away from her experience with cancer is the importance of kindness in our daily lives. "I think that experiencing all that kindness in strangers and in acquaintances, and just knowing how caring people are is something that I wish people just did everyday. It's not the gifts, it's not just the help with medical bills, but it's literally just the checking in with you to see how you're doing," said Baker.  Additionally, cancer allowed Baker to gain a better understanding of the importance appreciation life, and not taking anything for granted.  "I guess that it's that you just don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, so live moment by moment. It's so cliche, but it's so true. You just need to live moment by moment, and appreciate those moments. Appreciate your health, and not wait until something tragic happens to tell people you love them, to be kind to people. Just go out of your way to make someone's day. Don't wait, just do it now," said Baker.

Cancer also had a significant impact on Baker's life goals. "Now, my number one passion is to give back and make the dream of the cure a reality," said Baker. She hopes that one day she can turn that passion into a reality, and focus on giving back to others. "I love doing what I do. I work in Environmental Health and Safety for G.E. But longterm, I think I would like to have my own non-profit. I guess you could call it a dream of mine, to have my own non-profit focused on funding research and providing patient care in the Cincinnati area," said Baker.

The Woman of the Year title is awarded to the nominee who raises the most money for LLS. Baker will be competing against seven other women from the Cincinnati area. Each nominee is responsible to raising funds for the LLS. Money can be donated to Baker's campaign between March 21, 2014 and May 30, 2014. The campaign culminates at the Grand Finale Auction and Dinner on May 30, 2014. Baker is also seeking donations for items or services that can be raffled off at the Grand Finale. The money raised from Baker's donations will also go toward her final total, and can help her with the Woman of the Year title.

Baker has gathered at campaign team of roughly 40 people to help with her fundraising efforts. Baker and her team will be organizing and hosting various fundraising events throughout the area. Their plans currently involve a band performance and benefit at a bar, soccer tournament, happy hours, and a 5K race. Overall, Baker plans to organize approximately twelve different events to help raise money for her fundraising campaign.

The LLS Woman of the Year campaign is not be Baker's first experience with fundraising. While undergoing treatment, Baker turned to cooking to help pass the time. She then turned this hobby into what she calls an "inspirational cookbook."  Baker released two volumes of The Taste of Hope, and has successfully raised over $15,000 through sales of her cookbooks in the past. The funds raised went directly to cancer-related charities. The money raised from The Taste of Hope Volume I was all doted to the American Cancer Society, however, the funds raised from The Taste of Hope Volume II were distributed between five different charities. The Dragonfly Foundation, American Cancer Society, Flying Horse Farms, St. Baldrick's Foundation, and LLS all received donations from the sales of The Taste of Hope Volume II. Baker's donation to LLS is what first connected her to the organization, and set her down the path for her Woman of the Year nomination. Baker also gives back to the community by volunteering with The Dragonfly Foundation, which is a local non-profit working to provide care for patients and families dealing with cancer and bone marrow transplants.

Baker considers the LLS Woman of the Year Campaign to be the big break she has been waiting for in regard to giving back. "It's rewarding that people recognize me as someone who they think will be successful in this campaign," said Baker. "I feel like this is my chance to make a big impact. It's through money, but also through sharing my story." Baker is inspired to not only help others fighting cancer, but to also help inspire those dealing with the struggles of everyday life. "I can't give blood anymore, but I can tell people to go give it. I can't cure cancer myself, but I can give money towards it. And just helping people, just normal people who aren't sick, giving them a better, brighter perspective on life," said Baker.

One of Baker's biggest inspirations is Ft. Thomas native McKenzie Hicks. Hicks is currently battling Leukemia for the second time, and had a bone marrow transplant last fall.  "She's one of my biggest motivations to make this campaign successful. She's going through it right now," said Baker. Baker is hoping that Ft. Thomas will use her Woman of the Year nomination as a way to also show support for Hicks. "It would just be really cool to see the town rally around two people from our community," said Baker.

Baker is excited about how the campaign will allow her to reconnect with the support system that played a vital role in her battle with cancer seven years ago. She is looking to the Ft. Thomas community to help her dreams of funding a cure for Leukemia come true. "This is a huge opportunity for us to come together as a community, and how cool would it be to say that a Ft. Thomas resident won this thing," said Baker. You can find out more about Baker's Woman of the Year campaign, and donate by visiting her fundraising page at http://www.mwoy.org/pages/soh/cincy14/jbaker.

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