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The Virginians who make October’s monthly observances possible

Photo of Brandon Farbstein by Louise Keeton
Photo of Brandon Farbstein by Louise Keeton

From National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and American Pharmacist Month to National Cookie Month and Learn to Bowl Month - The month of October is full of a variety of observances for you to celebrate. Recognize some of the individuals that make these observances possible @myVPM on Instagram

American Pharmacists Month

Photo by Louise Keeton
“I believe that I am the first modern African American female to own and operate a pharmacy in the city of Richmond. The opportunity to be a trailblazer, in a profession that was traditionally white-male dominated, is a humbling accomplishment. My pharmacy is called HOPE. HOPE is an acronym for Helping Others Physically Prosper Everyday.  It is a name that transcends all races, cultures, and genders; a name that brings promise to a community in need of inspiration. The journey of opening Hope Pharmacy in The Market on 25th has been filled with an abundance of blessings. My husband and I have three children, two of which are girls. Hope Pharmacy is my legacy to my girls, my nieces, and all young girls of color who dream.”
- Shantelle L. Brown, Pharm.D., Owner, and Operator of Hope Pharmacy, Inc. in the Market on 25th

Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month
Photo by Louise Keeton
“Once my 3rd child was born, I knew I didn't want her to go to any of the daycares available in my area. I wanted a Spanish immersion preschool program where she could learn about other cultures and celebrate diversity. When there weren’t any good options that met my expectations, I decided to create my own program. I partnered with my mother to provide a true Spanish immersion program, with 2 Spanish native speakers and lots of love for children. I designed our curriculum to follow and exceed preschool guidelines and Kindergarten readiness. I made sure each week the kids learned a new country and where it is located on the globe, their language and culture. Our first 3-year-old student visited his sister’s elementary school after only a few weeks of starting at BilingualKid. While he was there he pointed to the map and told his mom, ‘Look, there is Rusia!’ The school teachers were so impressed that such a young child knew about geography. All our kids become more and more inquisitive about learning different things in the world using sign language as a bridge to connect bilingualism and biliteracy, and it opens their minds to being able to put themselves in the place of others, therefore becoming compassionate and kind world citizens. If all kids were taught to love languages, geography, and diversity from a young age, we could solve so many social issues that are caused by fear of the unknown. Children don’t see different ethnicities well represented in books and conversations aren’t being had about not judging others by the color of their skin. I want my students to look into people’s hearts instead while getting all the brain development advantages that learning other languages brings.”
- Claudia Robles, 2019 PBS Kids Early Learning Champion, Spanish Immersion Preschool Teacher and owner of BilingualKid Language Immersion School

Country Music Month

Photo by Louise Keeton
“I’ve never been able to put my finger on what makes a good country song. If it moves me, I just find myself singing along to it. The song ‘Old Porch Swing’ was written by a friend of mine - Cole Capshaw. I first heard him singing “Old Porch Swing” at a singer-songwriter night. It spoke to me because we had a porch swing in front of my grandma’s house growing up. My sister and I weren’t allowed to take our toys over to Grandma’s house so that porch swing was our Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion all wrapped into one. ‘Old Porch Swing’ is one of those nostalgic songs. We have played it across the country and it really moves people - and it really moves me! I love to sing it. I’m one of those few fortunate people who get to say that their job and what they enjoy doing is the same thing. So long as there are people who want to hear music from Tony Jackson, I want to continue doing it.”
- Tony Jackson 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Photo by Louise Keeton
“I experienced domestic violence and a few pretty huge life changes as a result. I moved across the country with my kids and I am starting over. Lately, the universe has been giving me some pretty noticeably consistent signals. While redecorating my son's room, I found a bear sign. I saw a post online about a bear near Kings Dominion. Then, I got a private Facebook message from someone who never sends me videos and it was a video of bears playing! I was thinking about how weird it was, I found a bear mask for my sons to decorate. I ended up meeting someone after that who had a dog named Bear. The signs are there and they are loud! 
Bears symbolize strength and confidence. I believe the bear spirit animal was brought to me intentionally, so that I may find strength within myself and heal. It has given me hope that the universe hasn't forgotten about me. I have experienced so much negative energy, that it is nice to see that there is a positive force working with me that is trying to give me a boost. I am listening and I appreciate it.”
- Daiyonna Smith

Dwarfism Awareness Month

Photo by Louise Keeton
“I was an eleven-year-old kid who was very close to taking my own life because I couldn’t see any point in having this pain and struggle every single day. That all changed when I gave my TEDx. That was not only the very first talk I had ever given, but it was also when I found my passion and purpose in life. It really solidified my belief in the philosophy, “The Power of One”– how one person, one conversation, one action can and will change everything for somebody else.
I was speaking at a high school and they invited parents along with students. A mom came up to me at the end of my presentation and told me about her son and his struggles finding himself and harming himself. She said to me, ‘seeing the type of life you live gives me hope that he's going to have an incredible future.’
Hearing that at 18 means the world to me. It also proves that age is just a number. We let these irrelevant things define the life we live and the things we’re able to accomplish when in reality it’s just a word, a number, a diagnosis, and it’s your choice what capacity it has in your life. You could very easily step out of it and own what you have to make something out of it.”
- Brandon Farbstein

Emotional Wellness Month

Photo by Louise Keeton
“It’s not my job to stay quiet so you can stay comfortable. Historically, people have been intimidated into being silent about mental health issues or struggles in general because we are expected to be happy all the time. Everyone has a story that is beautiful and worthy of telling, even if their experiences and perspectives are challenging and bring up uncomfortable feelings. Feelings are good - even negative feelings - and the better we are at accessing our feelings, expressing them, and understanding them the healthier we are as individuals and by extension as a society. 
One of my new students was a woman who was recovering from a traumatic brain injury. She had been through so much and was learning how to be a completely different version of herself. She was angry, afraid, and ashamed of the limitations she had recently acquired. The very first day we went around the table and she expressed these complicated feelings and worried about whether or not she could do it. I told her what I tell everyone at the beginning of every class, ‘The hardest thing to do is to walk through the door the first time. You’ve already done that so just keep showing up.’ I let everyone know that their stories belong to them and there isn’t a wrong way to tell it. Over the past two years, I have watched her work through her anger, develop new confidence, get comfortable telling her health story, and take ownership of her new normal. She has become a killer storyteller but more importantly, she’s an incredibly brave, kind, giving soul. I have had the privilege of seeing so many people find their power and I feel as if I have gotten as much as I have given. Other than being a mom, this is the work I was put on earth to do.”
- Erin Mahone of If You Could See Me Project

National Book Month

Photo by Louise Keeton
“‘Hidden Figures’ is, in a very real way, my origin story. It is both who I am and now it is what I do. My father is a retired atmospheric research scientist and he spent his career at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where I grew up and where this story takes place. He worked with the women that I wrote about in the book and he stood on their shoulders to build a successful career at NASA. My mother is a retired English professor from Hampton University and this is a historically black college that trained the first group of black women who went to work at what was originally called the Langley Laboratory, which was started in 1917. They celebrated their centennial two years ago. My parents met, they got married after college, they moved to Hampton when my dad was a young scientist at NASA and I was born just three months before the moon landing. So you might say that I am as much a NASA product as Apollo. Before they were household names, the four protagonists in my book - Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Jarden - were members of my childhood community and they were less known to us for trajectory analysis or supersonic flight plans than for their commitment to their churches or to their ability to raise scholarship money for needy local students through the civic organizations that they ran. They gave their best in every situation and they let their performance speak for itself. Even as I interviewed them decades later, asking how it felt to break barriers as a woman and as African Americans, their most frequent response was, ‘I was just doing my job.’ For the last three years, it's been my job to make sure that these women and their accomplishments are written into history.”
- Margot Lee Shetterly

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Photo courtesy of Grandma Sandra
“I had recently recovered from breast cancer and had bariatric surgery the month before my first grandchild was born. So, I started working out after literally 23 years of sitting on the couch. I ended up losing 120 lbs.
I was never into fitness before I lost the weight. Even my doctors started calling me an "athlete!" I realized fitness is my passion and I finally found it after 60+ years of life. I will — as long as I'm able — continue working out every day so I can stay active and independent as long as possible, and not be a burden on my children or grandchildren. 
I now plan on walking the Camino Frances in Spain in September 2022! I will have just turned 70. It will be a real pilgrimage and spiritual experience for me, as I hope to discover, even more, who I really am and who I was meant to be all my life. My motto for the past year has been "It's never too late to make the REST of your life the BEST of your life!"

- Grandma Sandra

National Cookie Month

Photo by Louise Keeton
“Allie grew up baking with me. I would bake the cookies and Allie really enjoyed designing them. So when we opened the storefront, she started helping me. We thought when we opened Sugar Fix that we would be taking the crazy out of our home - where the workload was affecting the family - to the storefront but it opened up a whole new crazy for us. We would be here at the bakery until the wee hours of the morning. The lives of my six children were turned upside down because they usually had me at home with them. Thankfully, Allie’s organizational skills made things run more efficiently. Now I feel like we’ve got it figured out - as much as any small business can figure it out. We’re always busy and we get to talk every day - which is awesome for me as a mom. I just wrote her a little note last week and told her how proud I am of her. No matter how busy we are, she never loses it. She is wise beyond her years.”
- Melinda Foster and Allie Wong of Sugar Fix

National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month

Photo by Louise Keeton
“I lost my youngest son, Adam, in October of 2014. It was a heroin overdose. He confided in me and asked for help to get treatment. In November of 2013, we got him in treatment, and he went on to a recovery program. He was at the in-house recovery program and resumed school and work, but suddenly died of an overdose.
I have written probably thousands and thousands of prescriptions for Vicodin and Percocet for my patients over the last 27 years as an oral surgeon. My actual involvement and advocacy role in the opioid crisis came about after my son's death. I went back to grad school here at VCU through an online addiction studies program then I utilized my best tool - being a teacher. Since then I’ve had over 40 appearances or lectures - locally and across the country - and 15 or 16 media exposures to advocate for patients and to educate dentists across the country about the new way of doing things.
We can't change people, people have to change themselves. And the only way to change is to give them the evidence and the research and the data that surrounds our opioid epidemic the last 10-15 years. As long as there are people dying, we need to do more.”
- Dr. Omar Abubaker, Chair Department Chair of Oral and Facial Surgery at VCU

National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
Photo by Louise Keeton
“I’ve wanted to become a mom for as long as I can remember. But after a year of infertility, 3 miscarriages in 7 months, countless tests, ultrasounds, and procedures, my body was tired and our hearts were heavy. After a lot of careful thought, we decided that adoption was the right path for us to grow our family.
Norah was born at 4:21 am on Feb. 9. We got ‘the call’ at 4:00 pm that day and we were told that we could meet her the next day. She was born 2 hours away so we left Richmond that night and were in a hotel by midnight.
Around 7:00 am we got showered, dressed, and ready.  My husband, Scott, had to drive because my anxiety was through the roof. We got to the hospital at 10:30 am and waited in an empty waiting room right outside the nursery. There were two babies in the nursery and one of them was Norah. I couldn’t look at her, that was still someone else’s baby and I couldn’t get attached yet. I was not prepared for those feelings. It was the lowest moment of my life. I was going to walk away with someone else's child. We mourned her mother’s loss, we mourned the loss on Norah’s behalf. We rejoiced, but we mourned.
After about 30 minutes, Norah was brought in and we got to spend some time together. I feel like something deep in my soul changed the minute she was placed in my arms. I feel like she softened me, my heart grew bigger than I ever thought possible and I see the world in a whole new way. But I also feel like she made me braver, stronger, and more of a fighter. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her, to protect her, to make her feel loved, wanted, strong, and powerful.”
- Brittany McBean

National Service Dog Month

Photo by Louise Keeton
“Renny has been a welcome addition to the palliative care department at Massey. Renny’s supervisor and caregiver, Gray takes Renny to scheduled appointments with palliative care patients around the hospital in addition to directing her unscheduled time on the floor of the unit. During visits, Renny’s primary activity is ‘just being’ with the patients. The goal of palliative care is to relieve the suffering of the chronically ill by managing pain and symptoms and addressing psychological, emotional and spiritual needs. It is something so simple, yet so meaningful when Renny is invited into bed with a patient. For many, having a dog close is not just comfortable and calming, it is something ‘normal’ in a time that is anything but. These moments are precious and sweet in their simplicity. The way that people’s eyes light up when they see us in the hall and tell me that just a quick pet or “hello” has made their day. Or when staff who are struggling after a loss of a patient sit next to Renny and hug her tight while they shed a tear and mourn, before brushing themselves off to go take care of the next person. Healthcare is hard work. I love the fact that Renny makes some of the hard days a little easier for so many.”
- Melissa Mitchell of VCU Massey Cancer Center

Photographer Appreciation Month

Photo by Leah Sutton
“As a schoolgirl growing up in Indiana, Illinois, and Maryland, I loved history. So much of what I learned in books happened right here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I was excited to visit the hallowed places, but became troubled to see what was venerated: Confederates on horseback lining Monument Avenue, well-tended and preserved Civil War cemeteries and plantations.
Meanwhile, when I explored the Southampton County courthouse for the history of Nat Turner's rebellion, I found a statue and a plaque to Confederate soldiers who were fighting ‘Northern Invaders’ and fought to ‘preserve the principles on which our country was founded.’  Only a part of Virginia's history was on display.
In the quiet, in-between moments, though, I could feel living history all around me, breathing on my neck. Every artifact, every shadow was whispering about the past, saying it was ‘present.’ This little collection of images is my diary of those feelings. It is open to your interpretation - how do you see your place in the history we make today?”
- Julia Rendleman

Youth Against Tobacco Month

 

Photo by Louise Keeton
“I started rapping because of my dad. He works with rappers so I decided to become a rapper too. I wrote him a rap one day, performed it for him, and he told me he wanted to work on it with me! Working on that rap, my Dad could see how serious I was about performing. So, he started helping me book performances while I worked on creating a drug-free campaign. I started the drug-free campaign because I want to make music that will reach other kids and maybe even help them. I’m going to keep working until I reach all the kids around the world.”
- Young King Jai

October is also…
Adopt a Dog Month
Adopt a Shelter Dog Month
Agent Orange Awareness Month
American Cheese Month
American Magazine Month
Antidepressant Death Awareness Month
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Month
Bat Appreciation Month
Black Cat Awareness Month
Black Speculative Fiction Month
Blindness Awareness Month
Caffeine Addiction Recovery Month
Campaign for Healthier Babies Month
Car Care Month
Celiac Disease Awareness Month
Celiac Sprue Awareness Month
Child Health Month
Children's Magazine Month
Christmas Seal Campaign
Church Library Month
Church Safety and Security Month
Class Reunion Month
Clergy Appreciation Month (Pastor Appreciation Month)
Computer Learning Month
Consumer Information Month
Contact Lens Safety Month
Cookbook Month
Co-op Awareness Month
Cut Out Dissection Month
Diversity Awareness Month
Dollhouse & Miniatures Month
Dysautonomia Awareness Month
Dyslexia Awareness Month
Eat Better, Eat Together Month
Eat Country Ham Month
Eczema Awareness Month
Emotional Intelligence Awareness Month
Employee Ownership Month
Energy Awareness Month
Eye Injury Prevention Month
Fair Trade Month
Fall Car Care Month
Family Health Month
Family History Month
Feral Hog Month or Hog Out Month
Financial Planning Month
Fire Prevention Month
Gay and Lesbian History Month
German-American Heritage Month
Global ADHD Awareness Month
Global Diversity Awareness Month
Go Hog Wild-Eat Country Ham Month
Go Nuts Over Texas Peanuts Month
Gourmet Adventures Month
Halloween Safety Month
Head Start Awareness Month
Health Literacy Month
Healthy Lung Month
Home Eye Safety Month
Hunger Awareness Month
I'm Just Me Because Month
International Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC)
International Starman Month
International Strategic Planning Month
International Walk to School Month
Italian-American Heritage Month
Learn to Bowl Month
LGBT History Month
Long-Term Care Planning Month
Lupus Awareness Month
Medical Ultrasound Awareness Month
Mental Illness Awareness Month
Month of Free Thought
National Aesthetician Month
National AIDS Awareness Month
National Animal Safety and Protection Month
National Apple Month
National Applejack Month
National Arts and Humanities Month
National Audiology Awareness Month
National Bake and Decorate Month
National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month
National Caramel Month
National Chili Month
National Chiropractic Health Month
National Crime Prevention Month
National Critical Illness Awareness Month
National Cyber Security Awareness Month
National Dental Hygiene Month
National Depression Education and Awareness Month
National Dessert Month
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
National Down Syndrome Awareness Month
National Dropout Prevention Month
National Energy Action Month
National Ergonomics Month
National Family Sexuality Education Month
National Farm to School Month
National Field Trip Month
National Gain the Inside Advantage Month
National Go on a Field Trip Month
National Kitchen and Bath Month
National Learning and Development Month
National Liver Awareness Month
National Medical Librarians Month
National Orthodontic Health Month
National Pasta Month
National Pet CBD Month
National Pet Wellness Month
National Physical Therapy Month
National Pickled Peppers Month
National Pit Bull Awareness Month
National Pizza Month
National Popcorn Month
National Popcorn Poppin' Month
National Pork Month
National Pretzel Month
National Protect Your Hearing Month
National Reading Group Month
National Roller Skating Month
National RSV Awareness Month
National Sarcastic Awareness Month
National Seafood Month
National Sensory Awareness Month
National Spina Bifida Awareness Month
National Spinning & Weaving Month
National Stamp Collecting Month
National Stop Bullying Month
National Substance Abuse Prevention Month
National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month
National Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month
National Toilet Tank Repair Month
National Window Covering Safety Month
National Work and Family Month
Organize Your Medical Information Month
Patient-Centered Care Awareness Month
Pear and Pineapple Month
Persimmons Month
Polish-American Heritage Month
Positive Attitude Month
Quality Month
Raptor Month
Rett Syndrome Awareness Month
Rhizomes Month
Rhubarb Month
Right Brainers Rule Month
Sausage Month
Self-Promotion Month
Sexuality Education Month
SIDS, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month 
Spina Bifida Prevention Month
Spinach Lovers Month
Spinal Health Month
Squirrel Awareness and Appreciation Month
Stress Awareness Month
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Month
Tackling Hunger Month
Talk about Prescriptions Month
UNICEF Month
Vegetarian Awareness Month
Vegetarian Month
Wishbones for Pets Month - October 15 - November 30
Women Walking in Their Own Shoes Month
Workplace Politics Awareness Month
World Animal Month
World Blindness Awareness Month
World Menopause Month
Workplace Politics Awareness Month