Each year on March 8, we celebrate Women’s Day. At 24 Foundation we celebrate the courage and commitment of women daily, but we wanted to mark this day by highlighting Beth Fernandez, one of our many, many incredible volunteers who help make 24 Foundation events possible.
Beth has been involved with Charlotte’s 24 Hours of Booty walking and cycling event since its earliest days, cheering on her husband Chris, as he pedaled the Booty Loop. She admits that while she would take their kids to the small, family-friendly event, it was mostly Chris’ “thing.”
In 2008, following a long period of diagnoses, Chris was diagnosed with a brain tumor. One of the first calls Chris and Beth made was to their Booty network, including Mike and Patti Weiss. Immediately, the Weisses brought dinner over and mobilized support for the Fernandez family.
As Beth remembers, “Chris ended up having three surgeries in January of 2009, 2 of them emergency, and required more rehabilitation than anticipated. He needed to learn to walk again while having double vision, losing hearing in one ear and suffering form vertigo. His physical therapist said his ‘muscle memory’ was in cycling movements, and she would tie him onto a stationary bike for warm ups.” Chris became determined to ride in that year’s 24 Hours of Booty, a mere five months later. “That was his therapy goal, his beacon of light, his measurement of recovery and so it became the whole family’s goal.”
Chris made a showing on the Loop that summer, not quite by himself, but thanks to a great friend piloting a tandem bike, he was able to participate. On the other side of Chris’ triumph, there was Beth. “Trying to manage Booty that year with a disabled and exhausted husband and three small kids, 2 things struck me. 1) there were no activities or things for kids to do despite it being a great family-friendly event and 2) Booty didn’t actually support survivors during the event. Chris could barely walk unassisted and yet all the handicap spaces close to the loop (all 2 of them) were unavailable.”
Following 2009’s event, Chris and Beth attended a debrief meeting where Beth shared her concerns. That day, the survivorship and kids pieces were born. Beth remembers the start under one small tent, but since then she has watched the young participants grow, necessitating a dedicated space. And naturally, overseeing it on those hot July days is Beth.
“Our kids have either ridden with their dad or volunteered or both every year since. It is indeed a thread woven through the fabric of our family life. A thread that weaves together values that we hold close… service, gratitude, commitment, and love. “ Beth says.
“You can ride, you can volunteer or you can just walk through the event, look at team tents and hear the team stories. Peek into the lives of those that have been touched by cancer. See the confluence of grief, love and hope. However you choose to be involved, it has the power to restore your faith in humanity and to inspire you to be a better person.”