Vonda Skelton, a popular author whose “funny lady” image lends a unique perspective to her public Christian speaking, will deliver the keynote address at the annual Breast Cancer Survivors Luncheon on the Lee University campus on Thursday, Oct. 31.
The community gathering, set to kick off at 11:30 a.m. in the Lee University Rec Center at the corner of Parker Street and Billy Graham Avenue, is one of many festivities scheduled as part of Volley for a Cure 2013.
This year’s VFAC theme is “Keep Calm and Volley For a Cure.”
The seventh annual VFAC, which was the brainstorm and love child of Lady Flames head coach Andrea Hudson, who involves her volleyball players in its coordination, raises funds for the MaryEllen Locher Scholarship Foundation. The Locher organization has supported, and continues to support, several Lee University students whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer.
Skelton’s appearance is being sponsored by Cleveland businesswoman and philanthropist Brenda Lawson, founder of Brenda Lawson & Associates LLC.
Ticket price for the luncheon is $20. Tickets may be reserved by calling 423-614-8600. With reservations, breast cancer survivors will be allowed to attend free of charge.
This year, three parking lots have been reserved for Volley for a Cure attendees. These are located at the Rec Center, the Tennis Center and at the corner of 15th and Magnolia streets. All are part of the Lee University campus.
“We are thrilled to have a speaker of Vonda Skelton’s caliber to keynote the Breast Cancer Survivors Luncheon,” said Hudson, who is also Lee’s senior woman administrator and assistant athletic director. “She is a woman of many talents, and someone who knows how to reach out to audiences, especially those who share something in common like breast cancer.”
Luncheon speakers the last few years have included Phil Stacey, a professional musician and 2007 “American Idol” finalist; Karen Mills, comedian; and Barbara Dooley, wife of SEC coaching legend Vince Dooley and mother of former University of Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley.
“This motivational luncheon has a tradition of attracting high-quality speakers,” Hudson said. “This year’s will be no different as we welcome an inspirational, and creative, presenter in Vonda Skelton. We’re extremely excited to be welcoming her to Cleveland.”
Skelton has been called an entertaining speaker with a heart for women and their families, according to VFAC organizers. Information taken from her personal website uses a theme to describe the mission, and the impact, of her public presentations: “Inform. Inspire. Empower.”
It also stresses her use of humor in reaching out to audience members, most of whom have been impacted — directly or indirectly — by breast cancer.
“As a little girl growing up in South Carolina, I never wanted to do little girl things,” Skelton declares on her colorful website. “Instead of being a cheerleader, I played on the boys’ baseball team. Instead of running from the boys who pulled my hair, I chased them, threw them to the ground, and beat them up. Life was good.”
She added, “Then I grew up and found that girls couldn’t play on the boys’ teams. I had always dreamed of being an undercover detective, an investigative reporter or a movie star. But the world told me I had to become what all little girls became at that time — either a nurse, a teacher or a secretary. It took me over 40 years to decide I was going to be what I had been created to be — a writer and speaker ... with a lot of acting thrown in!”
Skelton’s books include “Seeing Through the Lies: Unmasking the Myths Women Believe,” and the Bitsy Burroughs Mysteries for Kids — “Bitsy and the Mystery at Hilton Head Island” (2008), “Bitsy and the Mystery of Amelia Island” (2005) and “Bitsy and the Mystery at Tybee Island” (2003). The Bitsy mysteries are especially favored by boys and girls ages 8 to 13.
The keynote speaker is founder and co-director of Christian Communicators, an organization and community dedicated to educating, validating and launching women in their speaking ministries. She also is owner of The Christian Writer’s Den writing blog, and is a frequent instructor at writers’ conferences around the country.
Skelton also is co-director of NCompass Writing Retreat, co-owner of SCW Productions, and co-director of the Intern Program at the Gideon Media Arts Conference & Film Festival.
She is an occasional actor in film, theater and commercials, and is currently working on a screenplay. She and her husband, Gary, have “... two beautiful daughters, two amazing sons-in-law and four as-close-to-perfect-as-you-can-get grandchildren.”
Of her relationship with her husband, Skelton cites, “We’ve been married all our lives ... and life is still good!”
Along with public speaking, authoring entertaining books and empowering women to expand their personal ministries, Skelton also is a freelance writer for magazines. She has been published in “Focus on the Family” publications, “HomeLife,” “Christian Single,” “New Man Magazine,” “Family Doctor Magazine,” The Charlotte World newspaper and www.keepkidshealthy.com.
The Breast Cancer Survivors Luncheon will kick off the two-day finale of VFAC 2013. On Friday, Nov. 1, the Lee Lady Flames will host a variety of activities as part of the annual pink volleyball game at Paul Dana Walker Arena. A timetable for the events will be published in a future edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner. Since VFAC’s inception in 2007, a variety of activities have been added, just a few of which include the Pink Party, Silent Auction, Flamingo Flock, Pink Glove Dance, Flash Mob, and softball games between doctors and lawyers, and doctors and firemen.
“Although we have a lot of sponsors for various things, we raise most of our money selling a $5 T-shirt each year,” Hudson said. “Already, we have sold 4,500 shirts in the community. Our goal is to get everyone wearing pink during the month of October, but to get the entire town wearing pink on Friday, Nov. 1, the day of the game.”
Hudson said she especially wants the community to attend the festivities on Nov. 1, and the Lady Flames volleyball game against Valdosta State University. The Lady Flames have already met Valdosta once this season. The Sept. 29 matchup resulted in a 3-0 loss by Lee to the NCAA Division II opponent.
Although Volley for a Cure has been a success since day one, its popularity in the Cleveland and Bradley County community has continued to grow, Hudson explained.
“Our first (VFAC) game was in 2007,” she recollected. “We decided to set a goal of $10,000 for our first year ... and to use the ‘Volley for a Cure’ slogan at that time and to really emphasize the pink T-shirt. We wanted to pack the stands in pink, and our first year was a tremendous success.”
Success built upon itself.
“The community became involved in such an overwhelming fashion,” Hudson cited. “We knew we were going to have to add more to the event in hopes of raising awareness and also more money for the foundation.”
Hence, the addition of most of the activities scheduled for the Nov. 1 game day.
Hudson, who is a Cleveland and Bradley County native, said last year’s VFAC turned in $23,500 (after expenses) to the MaryEllen Locher Foundation.
“The most emotional time for me is at the game (Nov. 1) when we award a family with a scholarship from the money we have raised,” she said. “That night we get to surprise a family with a scholarship from the MEL Foundation. So many families in our community have been affected by breast cancer, and the financial strain it puts on their family sometimes hinders hopes for a college education for their children. This is why MaryEllen created this foundation, and we get such joy from contributing to these families’ hopes and dreams.”
More tips, tidbits, updates and reminders about Volley for a Cure 2013 will be published in the Cleveland Daily Banner as they are made available by the VFAC planning committee.