Thursday, March 31, 2016

These Women are Resolved in the Fight Against Cancer

I am involved with many special events that are raising money for cancer research at the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR), and I am so grateful for all of them. One in particular that I attended this month in Washington, DC was the Daffodils & Diamonds 2016 Luncheon to benefit NFCR at the Columbia Country Club. What an inspiring day – over 300 women gathered in resolve to raise money for cancer research, and share the emotional bond of hope for a cure.
The Daffodils and Diamonds Luncheon was founded by Bethesda’s Alice-Anne Birch in honor of her mother and sister, both of whom succumbed to the disease. Alice-Anne was co-chair this year with Anne Muir, also of Bethesda. The luncheon is held to raise funds for NFCR, specifically for breast and ovarian cancers.  The Daffodils and Diamonds Committee is a group of strong and accomplished women who have resolved to move forward together in the fight against cancer. Thanks to their hard work and generosity, hundreds of thousands of life-saving research dollars have been generated for NCFR’s advanced cancer research. Last year the event raised over $100,000 for seed money for research.

This year was particularly special for me and for all involved. This year marked the 35th anniversary of the luncheon – wow 35 years! It also announced the establishment of the Daffodils & Diamonds Accelerator Fund. The goal of this designated fund is to allocate funding to promising cancer research projects that the Daffodils & Diamonds committee will select for investment through NFCR. It is exciting because it allows these amazing women to have the power to put seed money into the laboratory of their choice, with the hope that this will accelerate the development of that technology. This is a unique and targeted funding model, and one that is perfectly suited for NFCR. For over 40 years NFCR has been providing consistent, continuing, sustainable, reliable funding for research. Check out some of the researchers that NFCR has been funding for many years.
This year was also bittersweet as my friend, dear Anne Muir delivered A Message of Hope, paying tribute to her son Stephen, who succumbed to stage 4 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) in September at age 45. Stephen had been elected to the NFCR board just a week before he was diagnosed. Anne’s message of hope was that, while her son’s cancer was found too late, there is promise of new discoveries in lung cancer treatment and diagnosis, and with the help of the 300+ women of Daffodils & Diamonds, the monies raised over the past 35 years have made and will continue to make a difference as we all seek to find a cure for cancer.
I was also humbled to be recognized at the luncheon as they paid tribute to me and Beverly Goering in the “Salute to Survivors”. What an honor to stand up in front of these dedicated women who work so hard on this event and are so committed to cancer research. My wife and I were blown away by the heartfelt response from the women at our table, which also included 3 other survivors. Special thanks also to Alison Starling, News Anchor, WJLA-TV, ABC7 in Washington, for hosting the luncheon for the 11th time, and for telling my story.
So once again, I am inspired by the commitment of people like the women of Daffodils & Diamonds, who show that we are truly “all in this together”. We all can make a difference in supporting the basic scientific research (seed funding) that has led to the discoveries of today, and the will lead to the discoveries of tomorrow. I am just one part of this ecosystem, and will continue serving as the #CancerResearchEvangelist bringing people together to support scientists in the laboratory.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Kids Can Only Do So Much, Right?

I often hear my friends and colleagues lamenting about the younger generation and how they act so “entitled”.  I’m sure you’ve heard this too, how they were coddled as kids, grew up in an environment where “everyone gets a trophy”,etc.  I always disagree with them because I have 3 boys, now in their early 20’s, and they do not act entitled or coddled. But last month I witnessed a high school girls basketball program that not only disproved this notion of entitlement, but blew me away with their generosity and dedication to a cause. I’m talking about the Central Catholic girls freshman, JV and varsity basketball teams in Lawrence, MA.
This group of amazing girls and their families rallied the Central Catholic community of students, coaches, administrators and families and friends to Play4TheCure, a signature program of the National Foundation for Cancer Research. They were playing in honor of Marilyn Joy, mother of last year's captain and teammate, Toni Joy. Marilyn is facing a courageous battle with stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer.  The Joy family has always been a great supporter of Central Catholic High School and the girls basketball program, so the girls stepped up to raise money for cancer research. And did they ever! They called the game “Jump Shots for Joy”, set up an online donation page, sold wristbands, held bake sales, and much more to activate their community. I had the honor of attending their game and got goosebumps watching all in-game activities including donations at the door, a dedication wall, halftime contests, and both varsity teams wearing self-designed Play4TheCure T shirts.

I met so many nice parents who were helping out at the game. And then I had the privilege of meeting the varsity team and their coach before the game. I told them how amazing they were, and how much I appreciated their hard work and commitment to supporting cancer research. They were so polite and attentive, just great kids. 100% of the funds they raised go to cancer research in the laboratory.
So these amazing girls prove that there are dedicated, hard-working, committed, thoughtful young people out there who are giving back and making a difference. Us adults can learn a lot from these girls at Central Catholic because after all, the kids can only do so much. Think of the impact we can have on our children if we invest in the seed funding for cancer research today. Research like the work being done by Dr. Daniel Haber at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Because early seed funding for research today will pay off 10-20 years from now, and help save the lives of our children.
Here’s the punchline. These girls raised $7,080 that goes directly to cancer research in the lab! Thank you so much Central Catholic. Can’t wait to do it again next year. #gratitude