It seems like just yesterday when we founded the Friends of Mel Foundation in memory of an exceptional woman named Mel Simmons. A single mother of two, a flight attendant and a beloved friend to many, Mel was a spiritual woman of legendary generosity and boundless energy. Humor was her trademark. She managed to turn every crisis into an opportunity.
In 2000, Mel was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and began her five year journey to navigating this vicious disease.
While in treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), her flight attendant friends would bring her treasures from around the world which she loved to share with other women who were in treatment with her. The most popular item was a colorful beaded bracelet from Turkey.
Sadly, Mel passed away in 2005. Soon after friends and family began asking where they could get a similar bracelet to wear in her memory. A unique idea was born! Friends decided to honor her by offering a colorful bracelet in her memory for a minimal donation. Originally we had a goal of raising $5,000 for breast cancer research.
Miraculously, within a year, we were beyond thrilled to donate $1,000,000. to MGH!
Who knew we were about to embark on an unforgettable journey where we would donate MILLIONS to cancer research, education and patient support programs! Or, that along the way, we would learn so much about the devastating disease of cancer and how it impacts individuals and their families.
Armed with what we learned we were able to determine the best ways to use the invaluable donor dollars we were raising. Some examples include…
In 2008, Dr. Carolyn Kaelin asked Friends of Mel to sponsor Knowledge, Strength and Grace, a full weekend retreat for 200 breast cancer survivors at Sandy Island in New Hampshire. We loved the idea of giving women a respite from the overwhelming stress that accompanies a cancer diagnosis. Friends of Mel donated $100,000 to Dana-Farber to support this.
A year later, we created Mel’s Magic to familiarize supporters with other grass-root organizations across the country that work tirelessly to make a difference in the cancer community. Each month, the Foundation designated $1 from the proceeds of every Mel’s Bracelet ordered online to a deserving organization that paralleled its mission to help those affected by cancer. During a three year period, the Friends of Mel Foundation donated over $90,000 to 36 different organizations who provide all kinds of support to cancer survivors ranging from travel expenses, food, medical bills, rent, utilities and support groups. A full list of Mel’s Magic recipients can be viewed at www.friendsofmel.org/mels-magic/past-campaigns.
In 2012, Friends of Mel teamed up with Oncology Rehab Partners to bring evidence-based cancer rehabilitation medicine to Massachusetts hospitals and cancer centers through the STAR Program®. We provided partial funding of $47,250 to the first six heath care facilities who adopted this program, advancing cancer care for all cancer survivors in Massachusetts.
Amazingly over the past 11 years we have been honored to partner with over 50 organizations who share our efforts to make a difference in the cancer community.
Moreover we learned the best way to reach the greatest number of cancer survivors would be through education. We sponsored wellness programs with other organizations until we decided to create our own: The Art of Living – Life Beyond Cancer survivorship conference. We recently hosted our 7th annual conference serving over 1,500 cancer survivors, their caregivers, and professionals, who work in the cancer community. The event has been a huge success of which we are very proud.
Throughout our journey we were honored to receive numerous awards such as the Audesse Award from The Massachusetts Society of Clinical Oncologists (MSCO). This recognition is given to a foundation for its outstanding efforts to educate the public about cancer care prevention and to enhance the quality of cancer care in Massachusetts. It is an honor that we share with you because our story would not have been possible without our generous sponsors and amazing volunteers. Not only have we enriched the lives of others but our lives have been enriched as well.
Today, thousands of women wear Mel’s Bracelet™ as a symbol of their commitment to making a difference in the cancer community. It gives us a thrill every time we encounter someone wearing the bracelet. Although we might be strangers, we feel an immediate connection.
This endeavor has been wildly successful – beyond what we could have imagined when we began this 11 years ago. We are so proud of all we have been able to achieve and we are even more proud of all of you who have helped us do it! We cannot thank you enough for your support.
It is with a heavy, yet grateful heart that we announce the closing of Friends of Mel. Creating Mel’s legacy has been a labor of love. I just know she is smiling down on us!
Please keep Mel in your hearts, wear the bracelet in good health and keep paying it forward!
Mel’s Bracelet™ will be available on our website until December 15th. If you have any questions, please call 781-878-8639 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org