LBBC Volunteer Awards: Michelle Baldino Is the Embodiment of ‘Yoga for a Reason’
Every year, Living Beyond Breast Cancer selects a small group of key volunteers – both individuals and organizations – and recognizes their volunteer efforts with an award. Our 2016 winners received a physical award as a token of our appreciation and will be featured in the Summer 2017 issue of our national newsletter, Insight. We’re also celebrating them here, on LBBC’s blog. We’ve asked a loved one, friend, colleague or employee of each awardee to write about that person or organization as they know them, and about where each awardee’s dedication to volunteerism comes from.
The Ann Klein Volunteer Award is named in memory of Ann Klein, who worked once a week in LBBC’s office for many years. A generous, dedicated and independent woman, Ann helped LBBC grow during its formative years.
The 2016 Ann Klein Volunteer Award goes to Michelle Baldino, of Somerdale, New Jersey.
“We deeply appreciate Michelle’s work as a multi-faceted volunteer,” says Lynn Folkman Auspitz, LBBC’s manager of community engagement. “Whether volunteering on the Breast Cancer Helpline, leading a Walking Tall Together program or volunteering at LBBC events, Michelle shows compassion, kindness and dedication. She truly helps LBBC advance our mission of connecting people affected by breast cancer to trusted information and a community of support.”
Below, Michelle’s sister-in-law, Toni Bonnette, talks about Michelle and her passion for helping others:
Michelle Baldino exemplifies the traits that the Ann Klein Volunteer Award represents. Like Ann, Michelle is a dedicated, generous and independent woman. Michelle has been unstoppable since her connection with LBBC, which happened after her second primary breast cancer diagnosis, in 2012.
My sister-in-law of 41 years, I have been blessed to both watch and participate in Michelle’s life. Family always coming first, Michelle is one of 11 children who grew up all over the country but ultimately settled in South Jersey. She married her high school sweetheart, Joe Baldino, and together they have raised three wonderful children: Todd, Joleen and Jeffrey. As a young family, they valued family gatherings and life’s celebrations. Todd tragically passed away 9 years ago.
It was then that Michelle decided to study yoga. She took it on with a passion and a purpose, not yet defined. I could walk into their home at any time of day to find Jeffrey or Joleen quizzing her on anatomy, yoga terms, or yoga positions. Her focus got her her certification. She taught over the years for wellness programs, fitness centers, vineyards, elementary school classes, beach classes (attended by her many sisters-in-law), and my high school special education classes. She felt whole any time she shared herself through yoga.
Michelle graciously came in one time per month to my high school class of students with multiple disabilities to teach them yoga. Her classes were more than just “time spent.” It started with the smile that Ms. Michelle greeted them with. It was followed with a whole hour of them attempting to do and recreate the positions that Ms. Michelle demonstrated. This led them to find peace within their souls by the end of each class. They loved the class’s ending where Michelle would walk from student to student and anoint them with lavender mist and provide them with a vision for the day. They loved best that they were her focus and that she came just for them.
Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and then again in 2012. Both were primary cancers. The second diagnosis was followed by testing that let Michelle know that she carried the BRCA2 mutation. It was at this point that she wrote to her 10 brothers and sisters, suggesting that they empower themselves and get genetic testing. This is to see if they too were carriers of the BRCA2 gene mutation. This courage and direction, on Michelle’s part, has allowed her family to better understand the foundation of a disease that affects so many, both male and female.
Michelle and Joe do not miss a step when it comes to celebrating life each day. They travel extensively and enjoy any vacation or gathering that includes history, family, friends, good food and good wine. Michelle first emailed us to join her family and her on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2012 for Reach & Raise (then called Yoga on the Steps). It was there that Michelle made the connection to her own passion and purpose to help others, like herself, through their cancers. She found that by integrating yoga and its multifaceted benefits she could and has made a difference. We all continue to be with her on those art museum steps, year after year. Hoping in some small way that our participation lightens the load of other families affected by this disease, like our dear Michelle.
We love you, Michelle, and are so very proud of you. oxoxoxoxoxo