Monday, November 25, 2019

Kroger Presents “Fight Cancer Day” Donations

The 41st annual Kroger “Fight Cancer Day” demonstrated, again, the generosity of people who live in northeastern Indiana. Todd Graham, district manager for Kroger in this part of the state, presented checks to the American Cancer Society, Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana and Francine’s Friends.

“Supporting these organizations is another way we at Kroger say thank you to our customers,” said Graham. “We know dealing with cancer is a daily struggle for many families in the area. We are proud to help the agencies that provide care and comfort to the patients and their families.” 

In the four decades of this campaign, Kroger and the people of northeastern Indiana have combined to donate more than $5 million to fight cancer. This year, customers donated $14,673 during the month of October. Kroger contributed an additional $30,000, producing a total of $44,673 for this year’s Fight Cancer Day campaign. Francine’s Friends Mobile Mammography received $11,272 to support its mission to provide screening mobile mammography to all women in northeast Indiana who otherwise might not have access due to lack of insurance, funds, transportation or other barriers.

“We could not provide screening mammograms to those uninsured without the support of community friends such as Kroger,” said Marita Dwight-Smith of Francine’s Friends. “Kroger’s continuous donation support provides many mammograms to those who would not otherwise be able to afford them. We are so grateful and appreciative to Kroger and the community for such generosity and caring.”

The Kroger family of companies has been serving communities large and small for more than 135 years.  Kroger’s Central Division operates food stores, pharmacies and fuel centers primarily in Indiana and Illinois.  Kroger is dedicated to Kroger’s Purpose: to Feed the Human Spirit™ and create #ZeroHungerZeroWaste communities by 2025.

Friday, November 1, 2019

15th Annual "Lunch with Friends"

Nearly 450 women (and men) attended the 15th annual “Lunch with Friends” at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum Convention Center to help raise funds to support the mission of Francine’s Friends — which is to ensure ALL women in northeast Indiana are able to have screening mammography on the Francine’s Friends Mobile Mammography coach, regardless of any barriers.

Linda Jackson, Evening Anchor of Fort Wayne’s NBC and long-time FRIEND, was back on stage as the high energy emcee of the luncheon, sharing stories of FRIENDS, celebrating survivors, capturing moments for social media, and sharing her amazing self.

After the Rev. Dr. William Curry, Chaplain, Parkview Health, offered the invocation, the Heartland Sings instrumental combo, under the direction of pianist and maestro Bob Nance, provided luncheon music before Rebecca Nelson, Lead Genetic Counselor, Parkview Health, took the stage and reminded everyone “Fear You Don’t Own ME!” and then encouraged the audience to sing along to the final verse.

Jackson then welcomed Marita Dwight-Smith, director of Francine’s Friends Mobile Mammography Program, to the stage. Marita shared a heartfelt message in the form of a “letter to Francine” — paying tribute to Francine’s Friends namesake Francine Shubert, who survived two cancer diagnoses before losing her battle in 2002.  “I have so much to tell you,” shared Dwight-Smith. “You wouldn’t believe what happened — something extraordinary has taken place in your honor.  A group of your dear friends got together and wanted to do something impactful in your memory.  Something that would serve thousands and change and save lives. Who knew even 15 years later, your legacy would still carry on stronger than ever through a mobile mammography program in Allen County and the surrounding area that goes to where women are and serves those in need by providing all women in the Fort Wayne area the opportunity to have a screening mammogram regardless of any barriers or their ability to pay.”

Dwight-Smith continued to “update” Francine with acknowledgement of this year’s community partners, event sponsors, bosom buddies, table captains, third-party supporters, local pink-outs, donors and survivors.  “Today at our “Lunch with Friends” I thank you, Francine, as we celebrate survivors, each other, our community, moving forward, beauty out of tragedy, being bold, inspiring others, releasing fears, empowerment, authenticity, and having courage — all things I know embodied what you believed in too. Know that there is great love for you here!” Dwight-Smith concluded.

Dwight-Smith also revealed exciting news — in early October, 3D mammography was installed on the Francine’s Friends mobile mammography coach — a revolutionary new screening and diagnostic tool designed for early breast cancer detection!

Next, Jackson introduced keynote speaker Donna Packnett, breast cancer survivor, and champion of cancer patients and fellow cancer survivors.  Packnett shared the ups and downs of her journey from cancer patient to cancer survivor, the importance of the support of her family and friends, and how together, as a family, the Packnetts continue to stay active serving alongside those making strides for cancer, being advocates, and creating opportunity for Fort Wayne and the surrounding communities.

DJ Breast Cancer/Podcaster Tina Conrad; Stefani Yudasz, NP,  Advanced Practice Provider, Parkview Physicians Group; and Rebecca Nelson, MS, CGC, Lead Genetic Counselor, Parkview Health took the stage next for a roundtable discussion about breast cancer as the survivor and the daughter of one, breast health and high risk considerations for breast cancer development, and identifying and managing hereditary cancer risks.

Jackson then shared a video clip of her recent “photo bomb” experience during a live remote with the mobile mammography coach out in the community — which then transformed into a LIVE flash mob!  With the help of Heartland Sings performers and a few “in-the-know” table captains strategically placed here and there, the room exploded into “I Will Survive” — much to the delight and surprise of the rest of the audience.

Jackson closed the luncheon by reminding everyone: “Together, through YOUR collective generosity, the coach will now take 3D mammography out into Fort Wayne and the surrounding communities – to businesses, clinics, health fairs, community and rural sites in 11 counties in northeast Indiana – and even more women will be able to take care of this potentially life-saving screening at their place of work, on their lunch hour, before they pick up the kids from school, between errands or while they’re spending a Saturday in the park at a community event.”

At year 15, Francine’s Friends has funded 16,387 mammograms and screened over 45,000 women (since June 2019) who are insured, under-insured, or have no insurance.

Donations may still be made to Francine's Friends to help provide early detection screenings. The average cost of a 3D mammogram is $180. Checks should be made payable to “Francine’s Friends, Inc.” and mailed to: Francine’s Friends, Inc., c/o Parkview Foundation 10622 Parkview Plaza Drive, Fort Wayne, IN 46845.

Click here to view the Facebook photo album from this year’s “Lunch With Friends”

Monday, October 14, 2019

Kroger Launches 41st “Fight Cancer Day” Fundraising Campaign

Last week, Kroger and local participating agencies held the opening event of their annual fundraiser at the Coventry Lane Kroger in Fort Wayne. Kroger’s Central Division once again encourages the people of northeast Indiana to “Join the Fight” as a donor in the annual “Fight Cancer Day” campaign.

Representing the agencies this year were Tammy Royer for the American Cancer Society — Indiana, Sarogini Ranasinghe for Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana, and Polly Workman for Francine’s Friends. Each is a cancer survivor and can share a powerful story of courage and resiliency to help raise money in the fight against cancer

“Kroger is proud to start the drive by pledging a portion of today’s sales to this year’s campaign,” said Todd Graham, Kroger district manager. “Fight Cancer Day offers all of us a chance to acknowledge the strength and tenacity of cancer survivors and their families. We are grateful to everyone who contributes to support the agencies that provide such an important service in the fight against cancer.”

In addition to donations raised on Oct. 3, shoppers will be able to make donations at the cash register throughout the month of October. New this year is a special day for each organization:

· On Friday, Oct. 11, Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana received all customer donations made that day.

· On Friday, Oct. 18, the donations will go to Francine’s Friends.

· On Friday, Oct. 25, American Cancer Society will receive all donations made.

Kroger’s Fight Cancer Day proceeds exceeded $50,000 in 2018, boosting the total raised through the event’s 40-year history to more than $5 million.

“Francine’s Friends is incredibly proud and excited to partner with Kroger, Cancer Services, and ACS in Fight Cancer Day once again,” said Marita Dwight-Smith, director of Francine’s Friends Mobile Mammography. “At year 15, our program has a unique and long history with Kroger, and we continue to bring the Francine Friend’s coach to Fort Wayne area Kroger stores throughout the year. This is about making early detection available to all women in our community, regardless of any barriers, and we are thrilled to join forces each October with Kroger.”

So shop, shop, shop!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Roundtable Discussion Planned as Part of Oct. 11 “Lunch with Friends”

For those of you planning on attending the 15th annual “Lunch with Friends” on Oct. 11, you’re in for a real treat! Tina Conrad, breast cancer survivor and podcaster, DJ Breast Cancer, will be facilitating a roundtable discussion that will include Stefani Yudasz, NP, Advanced Practice Provider and manager of the high-risk clinic at Parkview Cancer Institute, and Rebecca Nelson, MS, CGC, Lead Genetic Counselor, Parkview Health.

Tina has lived the breast cancer journey both as the survivor and the daughter of one.

As a breast cancer survivor and podcaster, Tina shares her inspirational journey through breast cancer with episodes on diagnosis, chemo, radiation and life after cancer with her inspirational podcasts DJ Breast Cancer. As a 5-year cancer survivor, Tina describes the challenges and beauty from a diagnosis.

Tina has lived the breast cancer journey both as the survivor and the daughter of one. Tina knows both sides of the story. She has been the ears that have heard, the eyes that have watched and the hand holder. She too has been the body that has been sick, weak and worn. Her soul has come forward with unyielding optimism about her own future and that of her fellow survivors. Through her experiences, those affected by breast cancer will find inspiration that they too can hope for a promising future that will wipe away the pain of the past, replacing it with joy and gratitude.

You can listen to Tina’s podcasts by clicking here

Stefani Yudasz, NP, is a board certified women’s health advanced practice provider. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from The Ohio State University followed by her Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. She is pleased to bring advanced experience in breast health and high risk management to Parkview Health. She is licensed by the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency and received her board certification through the National Certification Corporation. Stefani also holds a faculty position at Vanderbilt University in the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner program.

In addition, Stefani manages the high risk breast clinic at the Parkview Cancer Institute which specializes in the care of women and men who are at increased risk for developing breast cancer.

Rebecca Nelson is a licensed genetic counselor in the state of Indiana and is certified through the America Board of Genetic Counseling. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Psychology from Bucknell University in Lewisberg, Pennsylvania and her Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Rebecca began her career at Parkview Health in 2014, as a prenatal and cancer genetic counselor, but after seeing the growing need in the oncology field, transitioned to cancer full time. Rebecca is currently the lead genetic counselor at the Parkview Cancer Institute in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she educates
and manages individuals with hereditary cancer risks.

Additionally, Rebecca serves as the secretary for the Indiana Network for Genetic Counselors and is a weekly volunteer at GiGi’s Playhouse, Fort Wayne’s Down Syndrome achievement center.

If you haven’t yet confirmed your intent to attend the Oct. 11 event, email Marita Dwight-Smith at or contact her at 260.249.0154.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Donna Packnett to Speak at 15th annual "Lunch with Friends"

Donna Packnett is a breast cancer survivor, and champion of cancer patients and fellow cancer survivors. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 at the age of 54, Donna underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy. Through the ups and downs on her journey from cancer patient to cancer survivor, she learned the importance of breast cancer awareness and patient advocacy.

Donna is also a committed community volunteer and philanthropist. She currently serves on several committees including Rhinestone Rodeo for Ronald McDonald House, Ivy Tech’s Reason to Taste, Women’s Philanthropy Groups for Healthier Moms and Babies, as well as Band Together and Christmas Families for TROY School. Recently, Donna was chosen as the artist for the Parkview Cancer Institute’s annual t-shirt design, which serves as a fundraiser for the Parkview Foundation, supporting the Transformative Cancer Care Fund.

Natives of Oklahoma, Donna and her husband, Mike, have lived in northeast Indiana for 13 years. They have two daughters, Kristin and Kelli. Together as a family, they stay active serving alongside those making strides for cancer and creating opportunity for Fort Wayne and surrounding communities. 

The annual “Lunch with Friends” is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.

If you haven’t yet confirmed your intent to be a guest, Table Captain, Bosom Buddy, Corporate Table host, or Sponsor for this year’s event on Oct. 11, email Marita Dwight-Smith at or contact her at 260.249.0154 today!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

An Open Letter to All "Bosom Buddies"!

Aug. 22, 2019

Dear Friends,

THANKS TO YOU as a Bosom Buddy, along with the generosity of many sponsors and other donors, Francine’s Friends continues to bring potentially lifesaving screening mammography to women in our community. Early detection of breast cancer with screening mammography means that treatment care can be started earlier. It also means a woman’s chances of survival are higher. Together, we have raised more than $1.900 million from our annual October fundraisers (from 2005-2018) to fund mammography screenings and over $2 million in overall funds raised since our inception, including the funding of over 15,000 mammograms.

The Francine’s Friends coach has visited more than 2,900 unique community, business sites and clinics in Adams, Allen, Dekalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties in northeast Indiana. More than 44,000 women have received screening mammography services on the coach and over 11,487 women received their first screening mammogram on the coach.

Early detection is the best weapon in the fight against cancer and finding breast cancer in its earliest stages increases the survival rate to an astounding 95%! Screening mammography continues to be the best tool we have to detect breast cancer early. For over a decade, we have been able to provide screening mammography to women who might not have access due to lack of insurance or transportation. This September, the coach will upgrade from 2D digital mammography to 3D! We are so excited to bring the latest technology to our community.

As a Bosom Buddy, you gift of $1,000 will enable us to continue bringing Francine’s Friend to those women who are unable to receive screening mammography for whatever reason. Every Bosom Buddy will be recognized at our October event and receive a special gift of thanks. We need YOUR help so we are able to continue to provide the screenings for women in northeast Indiana.

Please mark your calendar for the 15th annual “Lunch with Friends” scheduled for Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Registration begins at 11:00 p.m. and the program is from 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.


Marita Dwight-Smith, BAM, RT(R)(M) ARRT
director, Francine’s Friends Mobile Mammography
Office: 260.266.6216   Cell: 260.249.0154

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Annual "Lunch with Friends" is Oct. 11!

It's official — the Annual "Lunch with Friends"
is Friday, October 11, 2019 at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum Convention Center.

Still interested in being a sponsor or corporate table? We have you covered. Haven't lined up all of your table guests? We can help! Interested in being a table captain this year instead of a guest? We'll drop off your table captain packets!

2019 Table Captains, sponsor representatives, and honored guests recently joined Marita Dwight-Smith and Fort Wayne’s NBC co-anchor Linda Jackson on Aug. 7 for two exciting announcements and a sneak peek as to what's coming for everyone who attends the Annual "Lunch with Friends" event in early October.

Click here to view photos on Facebook from the Kick-off Luncheon.

"At year 15, Francine’s Friends continues to make a difference in the lives of women in our area, providing screening mammograms to those who might not have access due to lack of insurance, funds, transportation or other barriers," Marita Dwight-Smith, director of Francine's Friends Mobile Mammography, told guests. "The true success of the program lies in the countless donors and sponsoring organizations in our community. You are helping women in northeast Indiana receive life-saving mammography services. Thank you for your generosity and support!"

If you’re a table captain or sponsor, remember to secure your table seats of 10 by Sept. 13 and mail the table captain reservation card with your guests’ names, e-mail addresses, vegetarian option, and checks for $75.00. Checks should be made payable to “Francine’s Friends, Inc.” and mailed to: Francine’s Friends, Inc., c/o Parkview Foundation 10622 Parkview Plaza Drive, Fort Wayne, IN 46845.

For more information on sponsorship or becoming a table captain, please contact: 
Marita Dwight-Smith, BAM, RT(R)(M) ARRT
Director of Francine’s Friends Mobile Mammography
Office:  260.266.6216
Cell:  260.249.0154

Join us as we honor breast cancer survivors and raise funds for mammograms! And don't forget — the "Lunch with Friends" RSVP date is Sept. 13. See you in October!