Team of the Week

Team Lion Heart


A survivor’s lifetime commitment to raising money for breast cancer


Kathleen van Rijn was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006.  The next year, she founded Team Lion Heart as part of her “lifetime commitment to fund raising for breast cancer.”  She was diagnosed with the disease a second time last year.  In 2010, Team Lion Heart had 92 members and raised $51,000.  In 2011, it hopes to raise $60,000.  So far this year, it is the #1 team in fundraising, having pledged $11,497 as of June 13th.

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van Rijn says the team’s membership is a snapshot of her life.  “You’re on the team if you’re a friend or member of the family — my children, husband, mother, grandchildren, five sisters and two brothers,” she said.  “The team also includes my first friend from high school, college friends and friends from every job I’ve held, as well as people from places where my husband has worked.”  Other members are neighbors in Rhode Island, where she now lives, and friends from all over the world — Pakistan, Israel, Australia, Japan, Holland and England.  Each year the team includes more survivors, their families and friends.”

Everyone has been affected by breast cancer.  Team members have lost mothers, grandmothers, friends and neighbors.  More importantly, members include survivors who have inspiring stories of courage, survival and strength.  “For me it’s personal,” explained van Rijn.  “Having breast cancer has created an opportunity for me to find a purpose through adversity, reaching out to others and making a difference.”

In the past, van Rijn has recruited team members via email, and, this year, for the first time, is reaching out via Facebook.  “I spend a huge amount of time maintaining personal contact all year via email and phone calls,” she stated.  During the year, she also ran two fund raising events — one at Chelsea Piers sponsored by a nonprofit organization call Wonder Women; the other, in February in Rhode Island, which included a band, great raffle prizes and hundreds of pink flamingos.  Her most successful fundraising techniques have been personal appeals, friendship, passion and hard work.

When asked about the team’s favorite Race moment, van Rijn replied, “Every year it is the same thing — crossing the finish line with the entire team.  It’s emotional and uplifting and underscores how wonderful it is to be part of such a great event.

“We cross together, “ she continued.  “Last year, we were 92 strong.  It reminded me that we are a family.”