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Behind the Ribbon: BCRF’s Longest-Serving Employee Shares her Story

By BCRF | September 10, 2015

Stephanie Hamburger serves as Executive Director of Play for P.I.N.K., one of the Foundation’s largest single donors

Stephanie Hamburger worked for BCRF for seven years before the cause hit close to home. While she had spoken to numerous survivors, family members and researchers throughout her tenure at the Foundation, her best friend’s breast cancer diagnosis gave her a tough reality check.

“It was at that moment when it became real and very personal,” Stephanie said.

She would accompany her friend to chemotherapy at the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, making her laugh during treatment to pass the time. It was only on the way back to the BCRF office in midtown New York where she would break down.

“I would walk down Park Avenue crying,” she said.

Her friend, who successfully completed treatment, is one of many inspirations for Stephanie, who has worked at BCRF for the past 15 years – the Foundation’s longest-serving employee. While she has held numerous positions at the organization, today she oversees Play for P.I.N.K. – a nonprofit run by more than 30,000 volunteers whose sole beneficiary is BCRF. To date, the organization has raised nearly $40 million for BCRF.

“I think of all the incredible women I’ve met over the years through Play for P.I.N.K. –they’re the reason why I wake up at 5:30 a.m. every morning,” she said.

Stephanie attends dozens of fundraisers each year – and she never grows tired of them.

“When I speak at different events with everyone dressed in pink and white, I still get chills,” she said. The BCRF annual October Symposium and Luncheon, however, holds a special place in her memory.

“The October luncheon brings it together for me. It’s very powerful and moving,” she said referring to the annual event where BCRF grantees travel to New York to meet and connect on their respective research projects.

For Stephanie, each year demonstrates the remarkable growth Play for P.I.N.K. has achieved since its start in 1996. At first, its events – held primarily at golf and tennis clubs – were in four states raising roughly $600,000. Today 28 states host Play for P.I.N.K events raising $38.5 million, thereby funding 25 BCRF researchers.

While the events vary from state to state, the determination of their organizers remains resolute. “They all have an amazing passion for raising money,” Stephanie said. This includes groups from high school to members of country clubs and everything in between.

“No group is ever too small for us because it all adds up to $4.5 million raised each year for BCRF,” Stephanie said.

Over the years, Stephanie has developed lasting relationships with BCRF donors and the Play for P.I.N.K family – a lesson she learned from the late Mrs. Evelyn H. Lauder. 

“Working for Mrs. Lauder changed the position for me,” Stephanie said. “She was the kindest woman. When she spoke to you, it felt like you were the only person in the room. Every person mattered to her,” Stephanie said, adding that her legacy has lived on in everything BCRF has achieved.

“She would be proud of how we’ve grown, how we’re rated and viewed around the world,” she said. “We’ve done it with such grace, and we have done it so well.”