Friends and family offered a large dose of encouragement last week for Jeri Buliavac who is undergoing chemotherapy for esophageal cancer.
They set out to surprise her with a “Shoe Your Support” event. They organized a sneaker drive and collected more than 250 pairs of new and gently used sneakers, which they subsequently lined up outside Buliavac’s home late one night.
Coordinating the project were Elise Stearns-Niesen, June Weaver, Jody Blatz and Mariam Denton, said her best friend Jennie Stott.
Buliavac, 49, has a large support system through her client base at Headlines Salon in Burbank where she is a hairstylist. She’s lived in Burbank since eighth grade, attended Jordan Middle School and graduated from Burroughs High School in 1982.
She was diagnosed in November and has been keeping a journal on her progress on the website www.caringbridge.org. Friends also write updates and words of support on the site and the public can donate to the cause.
The shoe idea came from a friend of a friend of Buliavac’s who was suffering from breast cancer. Someone came up with the shoe theme of walking along with her through the cancer fight and people donated any kind of shoe.
“So we transitioned it into the idea for Jeri, since she was running and training for a marathon, that we would do running shoes and we lined her yard with running shoes with notes in them,” Stott said.
More than 100 people met at the Toys R Us parking lot on Victory Boulevard at midnight on Jan. 18. The parking lot is a couple blocks from the Buliavacs’ home. They all walked over to her home and placed the shoes in her yard. A special size 20 pair of sneakers with periwinkle stripes was placed on the front porch. Periwinkle is the color designated for esophageal cancer, Stott added.
“Her reaction was very touching,” Stott said. “Her daughter videotaped it.”
Buliavac’s three daughters and her cousin slept in the living room that night so they would be there when she got up that next morning. The first thing Buliavac does each morning is open the front drapes.
“So she opened up her front drapes and was just overwhelmed,” Stott said. “She was overcome with all the love and support she saw on her front yard.”
The sneakers were donated to two organizations. Slightly used athletic shoes went to the Marina High School’s lacrosse team in Huntington Beach and the new athletic shoes were given to the Family Service Agency of Burbank.
Stott described Buliavac as “tough as nails with a heart of gold.” She is very strong in her beliefs and in her loyalty and friendship.
Buliavac introduced Stott to her husband on a blind date, as he was one of her Buliavac’s salon clients.
“I now have two amazing boys and a wonderful family and that’s all due to Jeri. She gave me my life’s desire,” Stott said.