November 14, 2018

The fight for cancer is a family fight

Soo Kyeong Kim ’19, News Editor

“A single mother continuing to work full-time during treatment so that she can make ends meet; a mother and father diagnosed within two months of each other solely focused on the well-being of their four children. I'm empowered by their courage and so proud of the impact that the Ellie Fund has," said Hillary Harrelson, Director of Development at the Ellie Fund. (Photo courtesy of Hillary Harrelson.)

The girl’s volleyball team annual Dig Pink event supports breast cancer awareness and donates funds gathered from selling ‘Dig Pink’ shirts to a breast cancer organization. This year, the proceeds will go to the Ellie Fund.

The Ellie Fund connects to the Wellesley community as Wellesley resident Gail Fine served as the former Executive. The choice to donate to the Ellie Fund gives Wellesley students a chance to support an internationally recognized cause.

For volleyball students, the Dig Pink event holds a special place in their heart.

“Dig Pink for me is very special because my grandmother has had breast cancer three times but has thankfully been in remission since 2010,” said girls volleyball captain Maria Batlle ’19.

“My aunt overcame breast cancer so this dig pink game means a lot to my family,” said Brianna Chan ’19. “Coach Kellogs, our eighth grade volleyball coach is a breast cancer survivor and most of us had her in 8th grade so a big part of it is also supporting our coach through the Elle fund which is local.”

“As a team of girls on the volleyball team, it has been important to us, especially because our middle school coach was a survivor of breast cancer. Everybody on the team knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer,” said Joy Miao ’19. “This event is important because it not only brings our team together, but it brings all the grades, and the school together to raise breast cancer awareness.”

The Ellie Fund is an organization that provides daily support to breast cancer patients through transportation, help with medical appointments, light housekeeping, nutritional and grocery assistance, child care reimbursement, nutritious prepared/delivered meals and integrative therapy services free of charge through their Healing Together Patient and Family Care Program and Metastatic Breast Cancer Support Program.

Their mission is to “provide essential support services for breast cancer patients to ease the stresses of everyday life, allowing the focus to be on family, recovery, and healing.”

Hillary Harrelson’s work as the Director of Development for the Ellie fund mainly revolves around managing the Ellie Fund’s initiatives, such as organizing special events, writing grants, and creating campaigns to further their cause.

In 2008, the year that long-time Wellesley resident and former Executive Gail Fine was on the event committee, Hillary attended the Kelley for Ellie Fashion show. This ultimately inspired her to join the Ellie Fund.

“Anne Meisner, who was only 28-years-old, shared how she received her diagnosis and how the Ellie Fund provided invaluable assistance while she underwent treatment,” said Harrelson. “What Anne made clear was that an individual doesn’t get cancer, a family does. I appreciated the fact that the Ellie Fund addressed this – providing much needed support services to the entire family and I felt compelled to get involved and quickly joined the Ellie Fund team as a volunteer.”

The Ellie Fund is unique since they narrow their focus to the needs of local patients and their families, thus distributing all their funds locally instead of nationally.

Our proximity to the best medical facilities in the world enables us to partner with renowned medical professionals, allowing us to create the most comprehensive care team for women and men undergoing treatment for breast cancer,” said Harrelson.

The mission statement empowers members of the Ellie Fund every day towards becoming a stronger advocate towards the fight against breast cancer. To Harrelson, personally, the mission statement is important to her as it emphasizes support of the entire family.  

“Undergoing treatment for breast cancer yourself or caring for a loved one is challenging enough, no one should have to question whether then can pay for parking for daily radiation or afford groceries because medication costs are so high,” said Harrelson. “The Ellie Fund alleviates these stressors as well as others, so that the focus can truly be on what matters the most – spending quality time with family and loved ones and getting better.”

One of the main goals of the Ellie Fund is to continue expanding their funds and presence to address all the needs of patients and families who have been requesting aid.

“Year after year, we see an increase in the number of patients requesting assistance,” said Harrelson. “To date, we have never said “no” and I want to ensure that we are can continue to provide much-needed support to every single patient asking for help.”

The Ellie Fund’s local focus allows them to be present within each family’s journey fighting breast cancer. For Harrelson, these families motivate her.

“The women and men that the Ellie Fund serves are my inspiration, their strength and selflessness is truly remarkable,” said Harrelson. “A single mother continuing to work full-time during treatment so that she can make ends meet; a mother and father diagnosed within two months of each other solely focused on the well-being of their four children. I’m empowered by their courage and so proud of the impact that the Ellie Fund has.”

“The Ellie Fund receives thank you notes daily from the patients we serve and are consistently told that we provide hope,” said Harrelson. “The types of services we provide and perhaps, more importantly, how we provide them – with compassion, care, speed and ease – inspires optimism.”

To learn more about or support the Ellie Fund please click here.

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