Volunteers Abby Bernhardt and Heather Potthast pose for the camera.

Volunteer spotlight: Abby Bernhardt & Heather Potthast

Volunteers Abby Bernhardt and Heather Potthast pose for the camera.

Through the service of nearly 2,000 volunteers across the country, the lives of colorectal cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers are greatly improved, and we grow closer to ending this disease together. In this Q&A, get to know Abby Bernhardt and Heather Potthast, passionate and dedicated Colorectal Cancer Alliance volunteers from Virginia, and consider becoming one yourself

Can you tell us about yourself and your connection to colorectal cancer?

My co-host, Heather Potthast, and I both hail from Northern Virginia. We've got a lot in common—growing up in big families with four kids each, blessed with awesome parents. Now, we're both happily married and raising two daughters apiece. Fun fact: our husbands even work together at a local insurance agency! Our journey with colorectal cancer hit close to home in 2018 when our sister and sister-in-law, Meredith, was diagnosed at just 28 with stage 3 colorectal cancer. She fought courageously for over five years, but sadly, she passed away on June 9, 2023.

Meredith was super passionate about raising awareness, especially for young-onset colorectal cancer. Her spirit and drive inspire us every day, and it's a big part of why we're so committed to spreading the word and supporting others affected by this disease.

Why did you sign up to volunteer with the Alliance?

My co-host for the fundraiser and I joined forces with the Alliance because we're passionate about their mission to eradicate colorectal cancer within our generation. For us, it's personal—we wanted to amplify my sister's voice and advocate for her. That's why we decided to organize fundraisers at my gym in memory of Meredith, with all proceeds going to support the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. It's our way of honoring her legacy and making a tangible impact in the fight against this disease.

Volunteers Abby Bernhardt and Heather Potthast hosted a fundraiser for the Alliance.


What have you found most rewarding about your volunteer service?

Before Meredith's diagnosis with colorectal cancer, we were completely unaware of its impact and how it could affect our lives. Over the past five years, however, we've seen tremendous progress in research and information accessibility. Today, there's so much more awareness about what colorectal cancer entails, how to seek support, and the importance of screening. Heather and I find immense fulfillment in being able to share this vital information with others who may be unfamiliar with colorectal cancer. It's incredibly rewarding to connect someone with the Alliance and introduce them to the wealth of resources available. We know firsthand that these resources can make a life-saving difference, not just for the individuals themselves but also for their loved ones.

Through our efforts, we hope to continue spreading awareness and supporting those affected by colorectal cancer, ensuring that more lives are saved through early detection and informed decisions.

How do you think volunteerism impacts the mission to end colorectal cancer?

We decided to host fundraisers with the goal of making a real impact in our local community and raising awareness about colorectal cancer. This year, our Move and Mingle for the Cure fundraiser surpassed expectations, raising over $20,000. While hitting our fundraising target is fantastic, what truly matters to us is the impact on the participants—the information, resources, and connections they gained.

Volunteering allows us to influence not only a large group attending a fundraiser but also individuals who may now take proactive steps, like getting screened before age 45 because they recognize the symptoms and understand the seriousness of colorectal cancer. It's these personal connections and moments of awareness that highlight the true significance of our efforts.

Can you share a memorable moment you’ve had while volunteering with the Alliance?

The Alliance sent us several pieces of merchandise to display at my fundraiser. These items included FIT kits, Alliance pens, brochures, hot/cold packets, and stress balls, both in the shape of poop. We decorated the whole gym with these small squishy poop balls. All the kids that came to the event LOVED them. These items brought humor to such a devastating disease. A lot of people are afraid of colonoscopies and therefore don't bring up red flag symptoms to their doctors. Having these poop-like images made people smile and reinforced that colonoscopies are not scary—they are extremely helpful. It softened the mood and made people smile and remember this disease is preventable with early screening and awareness. :)


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