By D.R. Amato
My mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006. In 2009 she travelled to Los Angeles from Ohio to participant in the Hirshberg Foundation’s annual LA Cancer Challenge with 30 team members in tow. Comprised of friends and family from all over the US, Team Nancy Pants was named after our mother Nancy “Pants” Amato, because we all know who wears the pants in the Amato family! No one could have imagined the impact that day created with my family.
Soon after my mother’s diagnosis in 2006 we all realized that this hardship was not just about us –there were a whole lot of people out there who cared about our family. It took some time, but we finally got to the point where we looked outside of ourselves and saw that there were many other families just like us, facing the exact same things we dealt with. We were lucky that those around us and, unexpectedly, the local support from the community, were there for us no matter what. And, truly, that is what made the biggest impact on us as a family and our moms’ fight with this disease.
Eventually my brother Pat and I created the non-profit Pants Off Racing, Inc, “POR” as a way to show our appreciation and give back all the love and support we have received as a family since our mothers’ diagnosis. Combining our love for endurance sports, (ie. triathlons, marathons, 10k’s, 5k’s, etc) and our love for our mother, we have formed a powerful group of supporters throughout the country who are passionate about making a difference in someone else’s life. Our greatest efforts revolve around the holiday season when POR – or the Meerkats as we like to be called – “adopts” local families that are dealing with the same hardships that we once experienced as a family.
We worked with the Hirshberg Foundation to get in touch with pancreatic cancer families that might be in need of holiday help. Knowing that it can be extremely difficult for parents to get into the holidays spirit, we decided we wanted to help. From trimming the tree, providing gifts, delivering holiday dinners and even lending a friendly “ear” for someone to talk to, POR is there so that families can just focus on spending time with each other. This past year, we “adopted” three local families coping with a recent pancreatic cancer diagnosis. We obtained a gift list from the families and distributed the lists to our POR Meerkats near and far. The amount of gifts contributed by those across the country was overwhelming.
Each holiday season we are reminded of the impact we are able to make in the local community by the families that we have adopted. The relationships formed through this program extend beyond the holiday season and it has been our goal to not only help and assist these families during the most difficult of times, but to also be there for them when the initial shock and reality of this disease begins to dwindle. The POR Adopt-A-Family program only scratches the surface of the impact we are able to make on the lives of others to make a lasting connection with the pancreatic cancer community.
The Hirshberg Foundation motto, “You Can Hope or You Can HELP,” is something we take to heart and it is our goal to live and act within our means to help as many patients and families that are dealing with the same hardships we have seen in our own family. And that is the reason we have created the POR Adopt-a-Family program – to help and assist those families that we know we can help make a difference.