Komen Toastmasters meeting in November included Christina Scheltema, Regina Curry, Gus Ferro, Gerry Counihan, Janelle (Jolleen) George, Marlene Fultz and Eric Delk. Photo: Komen Toastmasters

Komen Toastmasters offers an important connection with others and a safe, supportive environment for people to learn and practice new skills. According to Janelle George, Komen’s Vice President of Membership, “People join to work on public speaking skills, but they find that they learn how to lead, how to coordinate. Most importantly, they meet people they think that they have nothing in common with, and find shared experiences.”

Komen’s current Club President, Gerry Counihan, survived a home invasion which left him hospitalized with injuries so severe that he spent a month in the hospital learning to walk and talk again. However, these injuries haven’t stopped him. As a former member of Toastmasters who served in several leadership roles in DC Toastmasters clubs, he was inspired to join Toastmasters again by someone he once mentored, who has since gone on to become the current President of Toastmasters International.

“I came back to Toastmasters to hone my speaking skills, if the opportunity arose for me to become a motivational speaker for conferences and retreats,” Counihan said.

Toastmasters also helps him to serve as a Chaplain for the National Rehabilitation Hospital and a tour guide for the World War II Memorial. Counihan first joined Toastmasters in the early 1990s to help him overcome a speech defect and a learning disability. When he moved to DC in 1991 to work in the office of the late Senator John McCain, he joined the Senate Toastmasters Club. His Toastmasters training led him to a twelve-year stint as a US Capitol tour guide. “Once a tour guide, always a tour guide,” he said.

Gus Ferro, one of Komen’s newest members, joined to work on his public speaking skills. “I want to learn to communicate my message and foster my leadership skills. My passion is to inspire others with a message of hope,” he said.

Komen’s membership has always been diverse, with members ranging in age from 20-somethings to retired people. Some members are DC natives; some were born overseas.  Students, stay-at-home moms, full-time workers, freelancers and entrepreneurs have all found their voice through Komen Toastmasters.

Komen Toastmasters was founded nearly 22 years ago in partnership with the Susan D. Komen Foundation to help its members advocate for themselves and others with breast cancer. Although Komen Toastmasters is no longer focused on breast cancer advocacy, its members have been active in the Race for the Cure and some members are survivors of other cancers.

See the club website for more information: https://www.toastmasters.org/Find-a-Club/00008714-00008714.

By Christina Scheltema

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