She may be young, but Toni Fowler knows what it means to get involved, be committed and make a difference.
From Montgomery, Alabama, Toni organizes the annual Swing-a-thon marathon to raise funds for cancer research through the American Institute for Cancer Research. Since 1995, Toni and her fellow marathon participant, cousin Brandi Smith, have raised more than $35,000 for cancer research. Each year the two girls spend 48 hours or more on the wooden swing in Toni's front yard to raise funds and draw attention to cancer prevention.
Both girls have worked to make the marathon a success by soliciting support from local businesses and media. Area stores set up a number of collection boxes in support of the girls' project, several newspaper articles helped promote their efforts and a local radio station provides ongoing coverage and support for the marathon.
(l-r) Toni, Becca Norris (AICR), and Brandi Smith
share support during the 2003 Swing-a-thon.
For Toni, the swing-a-thon was a reaction to the effect of cancer on her own family. As a ten-year-old she lost her grandmother to cancer, and then, shortly after, two aunts also lost their battles with cancer. Toni became determined to make a difference in the fight against cancer. The next step was convincing her parents, Rita and Earl Fowler, to let Toni attempt it and then to get her long time friend Bonnie Jackson (who swung with Toni for the first three years of the marathon) to join her.
This year marks the eighth consecutive year of the marathon. Each year it has grown in visibility and popularity, drawing extensive media coverage, strong support from area businesses, and a large number of visitors to Toni's neighborhood to make donations and talk with the girls about their efforts. Toni also distributes AICR brochures to educate visitors about reducing their cancer risk.
Toni's efforts have brought her well-deserved recognition. She was named top youth volunteer in Alabama for the year 2000 in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, an honor that earned her and her family a trip to Washington, D.C., an engraved silver medal and a $1,000 award for her efforts.
The swing-a-thon is very much in keeping with Toni's busy life. She was involved in a variety of activities in high school, including student counsel, cheerleading, the yearbook, the student newspaper and much more. She will no doubt continue this trend as she heads to college in Mobile, AL.
AICR salutes Toni for her efforts. She is an outstanding example of how one caring person can make big a difference.