It is no secret to anyone that 2020 thus far has been a rollercoaster ride for people around the world, especially for those already fighting a disease like prostate cancer. We have quickly learned that cancer takes no days off, even during a pandemic. So when it became evident that we would be unable to hold our Prostate Cancer Run/Walks in person for the health and safety of the prostate cancer community, we pivoted and converted the entire 2020 season to Virtual Celebrations. Our events will still have a community feel and will show the local prostate cancer community they are not alone.
None of this would have been possible without our supporters, leaders, and advocates in the fight. One leader in particular, Jessica Tolman of Salt Lake City, has gone above and beyond supporting prostate cancer patients and their families for over ten years.
Jessica’s journey with prostate cancer began back in 2009 when her godfather, David Dodd, helped start a race in Salt Lake City called Stampede for Men’s Health. David himself is a prostate cancer survivor, so Jessica was eager to show her support for her godfather by running in the race. In 2016 when ZERO came to Salt Lake City, Jessica got involved immediately.
Since joining ZERO four years ago, Jessica has held several roles within ZERO from race day volunteer, to community relations specialist for Salt Lake’s committee since 2018, to major fundraiser. When asked about being on the planning committee, Jessica shared, “Aside from working alongside some of the most awesome people on the planet, and each year adding great friends to my circle, I love that there’s something I can do that really matters and advances this cause that is so near and dear to my heart.”
Earlier this year, Jessica attended ZERO’s Prostate Cancer Summit, an annual event that brings together more than 250 patients, survivors, caregivers, and family members whose lives have been changed because of prostate cancer. During her trip, Jessica traveled to Washington DC as an advocate with ZERO champions and staff to storm Capitol Hill and lobby for prostate cancer patients and survivors. “This disease claims way too many of our fathers, our sons, and our brothers,” shared Jessica, “and we are here to continue advocating and supporting the men who are currently fighting the disease.”
Despite the setbacks that COVID-19 created for this year’s ZERO Run/Walk participants, Jessica and her family found a way to partake in the festivities by running a series of 100-yard dashes that were equivalent to a 5K at their local high school in Draper, Utah. In addition, Jessica was an integral part of ZERO’s live show for Salt Lake City during our Virtual Celebration Weekend as our Bold for Blue Spotlight.
“The pandemic has made the fight against prostate cancer all the harder for some families and our support is all the more necessary,” said Tolman. “Unfortunately, prostate cancer has not self-quarantined during the pandemic. It continues to affect 1 in 9 men which means every single one of us knows someone who is, has been, or will be affected by prostate cancer.”
Furthermore, Jessica was featured on FOX 13 News coverage of the run/walk celebration in Salt Lake City. When they asked her about the ‘new look’ of a Virtual Run/Walk Jessica shared, “It makes us step outside the box and think of unique ways that we can engage people.”
Although the Run/Walk is a great time to gather with friends and family and show support for loved ones, Jessica knows that it is much more than that. “As an annual event, the ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk gives us all that little extra nudge to remember our men and raise the resources to support them, but the overall need is an ongoing one,” Jessica said.
Jessica’s participation in the annual run/walks goes beyond just showing up. For her, it is just one of many steps in the right direction. Her positivity and determination to make a difference during this tumultuous time reminds us all that it is possible to make a bold impact in the fight against prostate cancer, no matter the circumstances.