Val Newberg was hesitant to show up to the Austin Brushes with Cancer event, however, her good friend Bob Kauffman was the motivation she needed to get out of the house.
“My friends and I hate going out on Sunday nights, but we love Bob,” Newberg said. “We had no idea what we were going to, and I was blown away and impressed with the whole event.”
Newberg wasn’t just impressed – the Brushes with Cancer program touched her in a way that no other event had before.
“I got home and read the whole program, which I never do,” Newberg said. “You see the art and then read the program and you feel like you know these people. We were so glad we went.”
A short time after Newberg attended the event, Twist Out Cancer popped back up in her life through a friend’s birthday party. While there, Newberg connected with Alana Dugandzic, who is a current TOC board member and Brushes with Cancer Austin 2019 and 2020 Chair. The two reconnected after many years out of touch, and made plans to meet up for lunch later.
“We had an instant connection and I instantly fell in love with her,” Newberg said. “We kept in touch, and one day she called and asked me if I would be the honorary chair for the next Brushes with Cancer program.”
Newberg had to think about this offer – and honor. She had a few other commitments and was unsure if she was the right fit. While she has been touched by cancer by helping loved ones through their journeys, Newberg has never been diagnosed with cancer herself. Eventually, she said yes!
“I thought about the people I’ve lost to cancer, or people I love diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “I love this event, and I felt like there’s a reason why I connected with Alana and that this is happening for a reason. Then I met TOC founder Jenna and fell in love with her. Overall, I fell in love with what Twist Out Cancer does, its message and how the organization helps people.”
Newberg became a Brushes with Cancer Honorary Chair right as COVID-19 started spreading across America. This presented challenges to those involved with the event, which has always been in-person.
“What we’re going through right now, I always try to look at the positives,” Newberg said about changing gears with the Brushes event. “I feel like maybe someone’s trying to tell us something. The whole world is out of whack and we need to step back and look at how we do things.”
This year, Brushes with Cancer is going digital due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its unpredictability. The new format is exciting to Newberg because it presents art in a way that’s accessible to all, including inpatient oncology units.
“I think it’s hard for everyone to be engaged right now,” she said. “Twist Out Cancer is a great organization and I think the virtual Brushes with Cancer format is going to be cool. People will feel connected to it and feel a part of it. Think of all those families and friends who don’t live in your city who can be a part of it!”
Pivoting is challenging, stressful and full of uncertainty, but Newberg doesn’t have a single worry.
“With this committee, we’re all bringing out the best in each other. How can it fail?”
Most of all, Newberg is excited to be involved in making connection and inspiration happen.
“When I read these stories, it teaches me to look at those silver linings and the people who are there for you,” she said. “People who feel alone can rely on that community for support.”
Since getting involved in Twist Out Cancer, Newberg has given herself to the organization’s community, and now she’s thrilled to be one of the people who bring a powerful experience to fruition.
“The whole premise behind Twist Out Cancer and what Jenna started is making a difference,” Newberg said. “It’s what they say about you when you’re gone: what legacy are you leaving behind? I hope people remember me as someone who inspired them.”