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WomanOf the Month 8-08: Cynthia Martin, Founder, National Send a Card Day
by Susan Klann

Cynthia Martinapostrophes life followed a winding road after she graduated from high school in Denver. She loved to design clothes, organize events, and be innovative. She eventually earned her degree in graphic design, which led to design work for bridal shops, to her own line of greeting cards, and teaching at a charter school.

After she married, she and her husband displayed her cards at a convention where she attracted the attention of Gregory Perkins, the owner and founder of African American Expressions, a gifts and stationary catalogue company. He noticed how well Martin’s cards were selling at her booth, they talked, and eventually he purchased 15 of her card designs for his catalogue. That seed money would eventually help launch the card collection for National Send A Card Day , an event she founded to help in the fight against cancer.

Martin’s father, Ralph Jerald Gilliard, died of a rare form of stomach cancer in 1996, and when her mother, Janice Gilliard, was diagnosed in 2002, Martin initially felt helpless. Then she conceived of the idea of a card collection aimed at supporting and honoring cancer survivors, their families, caregivers and friends, with 30% of the sales’ proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. While the cards may be purchased all year long, the focus is to encourage everyone to send a card on National Send a Card Day, Oct. 22, which is also Martin’s mother’s birthday.

Martin began experimenting with card designs when she bought raw materials at Hobby Lobby and made African American-influenced hand-made cards. One of Martin’s friends from a moms group called Mocha Moms was a force in helping her to launch her products in September of 2004. Martin wrote sentiments on the cards that “God put into my head,apostrophe she recalls. “I got a hard shove from God to get it done, but it took five years to pursue it,apostrophe she says.

Another key player in helping Martin achieve her dream was Gale Sayer’s wife, Ardie, a design veteran and cancer victim advocate,whodesigned four of the cards in the collection. “When we met I felt as if we had known each other forever,apostrophe recalls Martin. Another friend and fellow artist, Alyson Hargraves-Warren, designed two cards. Martin wrote the verses on all except the pink ribbon card, which Hargraves-Warren wrote, or left the cards blank when it seemed more appropriate. Literature from the American Cancer Society will accompany each card.

What has propelled Martin to put so much energy into this project? “I have always felt that when we do something it should benefit more than just us—that should be the last part of any benefit. I hope the reception can convey how much we all appreciate each other and that it will be a great celebration and place for us to present the money to the American Cancer Society. I also hope we can help people with cancer have some money to help pay bills while they are sick—I know that was very difficult for my mother as she had to go on disability.

“I also hope to open up a couple of additional jobs some day in my business, and I enjoy showing my students that you can accomplish something that you set out to do if you keep trying. I was a late bloomer I guess, but I really wanted to get the art community involved with raising money for cancer."

Martin has financed National Send a Card Day on her own, with the help of supporters such as her printer, Siler’s, and others.

“I’ve grown up a lot, from when I cared about being the best-dressed person in the club,apostrophe laughs Martin. “Life is short, and I believe we all have something special that only we can do, to make our life feel purposeful. I want to leave a good example for my children and do something that matters. “

Martin’s mom, a five-year cancer survivor, is tremendously excited about the project. Going forward, Martin hopes to expand the card collection’s appeal, broadening the variety and styles. “This is my journey, this is what I’ll be about for the next several years, using my talent to make a difference,apostrophe she says, “and feeling what other people are going through.apostrophe

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