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Remembering by Paying it Forward

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
September 22, 2010

Tammie Burklund (left) with her sister-in-law Robin Drown. Courtesy Photo

One day last year when Tammie Burklund was at a hospital waiting for test results, an elderly woman came up to her and pressed a cross into her hands, saying, “Now you will have no more worries.”

Earlier this summer, she passed on those words, and the cross, to her sister-in-law Robin Drown, who died in July of cancer. Drown had worked for UNH athletics for 29 years. Burklund works in Zeke’s Café in the Dimond Library. Her husband, Scott, has worked for Dining Services for 28 years.

Now Tammie Burklund is seeking to honor Drown’s memory by collecting all of the things that Drown loved and assembling gift baskets that she will donate to the Seacoast Cancer Unit at Wentworth-Douglas Hospital.

When Burklund met her husband 10 years ago, his sister had just started going through chemotherapy. The two women became quick friends and then, every Tuesday for four years, Burklund would go sit with Drown while she received treatment.

“As I sat with her, I felt helpless because I could only hold her hand, when all I wanted was to take her pain away,” Burklund says.

She adds that Drown lived long enough to witness the birth of her granddaughter, MaKenna, more than a year ago, and to see her son, Ryan, graduate high school in May.

“She adored MaKenna as much as life itself and cherished every minute of her time with her,” Burklund says.

While they sat and waited for the drug to be administered, Burklund would look around and notice the people who were there alone. That’s when the seed was first planted for the baskets. Added to her desire to “pay it forward” was the wonderful support and care her sister-in-law received at the cancer center.

“I feel like this is my way to give something back to them for all they did for her,” Burklund says. “Robin loved life and was an inspiration to all. She taught me a valuable lesson: to live each day to the fullest and to always ‘pay it forward.’”

The baskets are full of, among other things, books and restaurant gift cards and tickets to UNH sporting events and CDs and jewelry—all of Drown’s favorite things.

“My hope is that these baskets can brighten a day in the life of someone who has to endure what Robin so bravely battled,” Burklund says.

Dot Sheehan, senior associate athletic director/external affairs, also spoke of Drown’s bravery.

"Robin was loved by all who worked with her in Athletics. She treated fans with the utmost respect and they were very appreciative of all she did for them. She certainly went over and above the call of duty for all. Robin's smile was infectious and she is sorely missed. She fought her illness with grace and dignity and taught all of us so much about living with cancer."

To make a donation to a basket, contact Burklund at Tammie.Burklund@unh.edu.

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