On June 2, 2011, Molli Serrano, a very good friend of our family was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. Molli was just 38 years old, a married mother of twins and was in amazing physical shape. She had completed several Ironman Triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run) and was in training for another. Molli’s diagnosis came as a complete shock to all who knew her.
From that moment on our family rallied around Molli and became extremely interested in Pancreatic Cancer. What we learned about Pancreatic Cancer was truly astonishing:
Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially over nearly 40 years.
Pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.
Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. 94% of pancreatic cancer patients will die within five years of diagnosis – only 6% will survive more than five years. 74% of patients die within the first year of diagnosis.
The average life expectancy after diagnosis with metastatic disease is just three to six months.
Our friend, Molli was determined to fight this horrible disease and did so for 25 months. She was considered “lucky” to be able to fight that long. Unfortunately, she passed away on July 15, 2013, just 1 month after her 40th Birthday. Molli was a real life super-hero!
During the time Molli was battling her illness, my daughter performed many “mini-mitzvahs”. We made dinner for her family, visited often, participated in several Pancreatic Cancer walks, runs and bike rides. We wore purple (the color of Pancreatic Cancer) often and always keep Molli and her family in close contact. We never really considered them “mitzvahs” they were just what we did to help out a friend and family in need.
When Morgan got her Bat Mitzvah date we knew that she would be responsible for an official “Mitzvah Project”. Morgan’s and Molli’s love for being active was a natural springboard for her Mitzvah Project! Morgan is such an active kid and an avid gymnast. We contacted Park Avenue Gymnastics in Cooper City, FL and they graciously donated 2 hours of “Open Gym” plus all the staff for the event. We decided to charge $10 per participant to come into the gym and take advantage of all Park Avenue had to offer. There were trampolines, tumble tracks, ball pits, mats, bars, spring floor and all sorts of active fun! We advertised our event everywhere! We posted it on Facebook, put up flyers at the Temple, contacted our daughter’s friends and sent many emails. Our goal was to have 50 kids.
We also asked many local businesses to make donations. We were very lucky to receive many food items such as purple and white cookies, purple iced donuts, ice cream, chips and salsa, water, juice, trail mix and many more fun snacks! We even had one vendor donate purple ribbon glitter tattoos and an attendant to put them on during the event. We purchased some fun purple items such as sunglasses, bubbles, mustaches, necklaces and lots more purple items to help “Paint the Gym Purple”. We received incredible support from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network that provided us with PanCan tablecloths, purple ribbons, purple bracelets and tablecloths for our event.
Our event was Saturday, May 3, 2014. It was absolutely amazing! We had about 100 children from ages 8 months to 13 years old participate. We also had over 100 adults come and support the event. We raised $3000 for Pancreatic Cancer to advance research, support patients and create hope. It was truly and incredible project that my daughter was proud to plan and participate in. While our friend Molli was not there in person, we knew she was there in spirit. Her children and family participated in our event as well. Long after Morgan’s Bat Mitzvah has past, we will continue the fight against Pancreatic Cancer and will forever be proud members of TEAM MOLLI.