Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Letter To Our Friends

Marita and Sharon at 2013 "Lunch with Friends"
Dear Friends,
After Francine Shubert lost her battle with breast cancer in 2002, several of her friends set out to honor her spirit and drive in a way that provided lifesaving services to women who may not otherwise receive them. Our vision became a reality in 2005 when Francine’s Friends was established and our Mobile Mammography coach went out on the road for the very first time.

Now, after more than 13 years, Francine’s Friends continues to make a difference in the lives of women in our area, providing screening mammography to those who might not have access due to lack of insurance, funds, transportation or other barriers. Never in our wildest imagination did our small group of “friends” think we would grow to include so many other FRIENDS — and create an all-volunteer board and an expanded event committee who have faithfully served and successfully hosted 13 “Lunch with Friends”.

Francine’s Friends is grateful for and relies on two key community partners. Parkview Health provides funding for diagnostic testing if required for uninsured and underinsured who are screened on the coach as well as operational support. The Breast Diagnostic Center (BDC) provides radiologic technologists to staff the coach, the coach drivers, board certified, dedicated breast imaging mammography radiologists who provide the mammography readings, and maintains the equipment.

Our true success lies in the countless donors and sponsoring organizations in our community — our founding partners, our annual table captains, our bosom buddies, our event sponsors, and our third-party fundraisers — through which we have been able to meet our mission and grow our reach.

We are now happy to share plans that will allow our vision to continue and grow in new ways. After serving since the inception of Francine’s Friends, I will be retiring and am stepping down from the volunteer role of board president. Thanks to our ongoing partnership with Parkview Health, an executive director has been hired to fulfill the responsibilities of leading the mission of the program. Marita Dwight-Smith, former Director of the Breast Diagnostic Center and Francine’s Friends board member, will serve in this executive director role.

It has been a wonderful privilege to serve as the Board President of Francine’s Friends. As an all-volunteer organization, the board and its friends have accomplished tremendous things through funding of mammograms and affording many women in Allen and the surrounding counties with their first screening mammogram. We now look forward to seeing our passion and vision continued through Parkview’s support and Marita’s leadership, knowing this important program is in very capable hands.

With gratitude,
Sharon Simmons

Contact information for Marita Dwight-Smith:
Marita Dwight-Smith, BAM, RT(R)(M) ARRT
Director of Francine’s Friends Mobile Mammography
11109 Parkview Plaza Drive | Fort Wayne, IN | 46845
Office: 260.266.6216
Cell: 260.249.0154

Monday, February 12, 2018

Francine’s Friends Receives $12,500 from Kroger 2017 Fight Cancer Day

Kroger presented checks for proceeds of its 2017 “Fight Cancer Day” campaign in February 2018. The announcement was made prior to the official ribbon cutting and re-opening of the recently remodeled Kroger store in New Haven, Indiana.  Kroger representative and longtime “FRIEND” Chris Gomez (pictured center) presented the official check to Francine’s Friends Donna Emley (pictured left) and Sharon Simmons (pictured right) in February.

The 2017 campaign raised $76,359 to fight cancer and support cancer patients in northeast Indiana.  Kroger customers were invited to contribute to three cancer organizations — the American Cancer Society, Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana and Francine’s Friends — during the October 2017 month-long campaign. The campaign involved 15 local Kroger stores and honored local “superheroes” for being a survivor or dedicated to the fight against cancer.

The Kroger Central Division and local representatives officially kicked off the 39th annual Fight Cancer Day initiative at the Kroger Marketplace on Dupont Road in October 2017. “Fight Cancer Day" was started by Scott’s Foods in 1979 and the fund-raising event continued following the purchase of Scott’s from SuperValu by Kroger in 2007. Thank you KROGER!

Friday, November 17, 2017

October Fundraisers Benefit FRIENDS!

October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Francine's Friends is thankful for the many third-party organizations who designated funds from their October fundraisers to support Francine's Friends and our mission.

Summit Plastic Surgery raised over $4,500 to help provide screening mammography through Francine's Friends with its first annual "Think Pink" event at the West Jefferson location on October 19th. Dr. Matthew E Shambaugh has spect 25+ years helping those affected by breast cancer and he and his staff welcomed guests to refreshments, a silent auction, prizes and giveaways, a demonstration of services, and a tour of the new office. It was a terrific evening with our new FRIENDS!!! For more information about Summit Plastic Surgery, visit

On Friday and Saturday nights in October, Fort Wayne's SKYZONE Park was all a GLOW for Francine's Friends! For those of you not in the GLOW, this black-light after dark experience is like none other with lasers, LEDs, EDM music and black lights. Special Neon GLOW t-shirts were for sale with a portion of each sale going to Francine's Friends. T-shirts were available through the end of October. Thank you SKYZONE for helping to create awareness and funds through this awesome promotion! Find out about other upcoming events at

Our friends at The Journal Gazette donated a percentage of ad space proceeds from its October THINK PINK section to Francine's Friends, raising $507 to help fund screening mammography! This tabloid publication was distributed October 15th and included a ton of wonderful information, stories of hope, and ads about local resources. THANK YOU JG and local advertisers!

Locally owned and independently operated Yard Cards by Jess helps celebrate birthdays, milestones and many other special events by helping Fort Wayne decorate a yard with high quality personalized signs. Jess and her friends raised $122 for Francine's Friends during the month of October. Find out more about Jess on her Facebook page - Yard Cards by Jess Facebook Page -  and "don't just give them a card, decorate the yard!"! Thank you JESS!

Francine's Friends is very appreciative and grateful to the many organizations throughout the year who support Francine's Friends and its mission through third-party fundraisers.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

October 13, 2017 — 13th Annual "Lunch With Friends"!

Nearly 600 women (and men) attended the 13th annual "Lunch with Friends" at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum to help raise funds to support the mission of Francine's Friends — 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.

This year, we were thrilled to welcome many returning alumni models/survivors from our 2005-2016 luncheons.  Linda Jackson, Evening Anchor of Fort Wayne's NBC and long-time FRIEND, was back on stage as the vivacious emcee of the luncheon, who had the crowd taking selfies and trending #FrancinesFriends on social media. After an invocation by The Rev. Dr. Kathleen Haller, Trinity English Lutheran Church, Board President Sharon Simmons had everyone up on their feet in honor of breast cancer survivors. Simmons continued with remarks about advances made in early detection and treatment resulting in less invasive surgeries and therapies. Simmons also expressed gratitude to the various organizations and groups holding third party fundraisers to benefit Francine's Friends. "We are blessed by all of these efforts," remarked Simmons. "It is so much fun for board members to attend these events and talk about the importance of early detection — from the 'Ride for a Cause' sponsored by the Moonshine Cowboys — to the Todd Alber Annual Golf Outing — to the Tri Kappa DeKalb Pink Out — to all the Pink Outs sponsored by area sports teams — to events to raise awareness like Glo's Wine, Women and Wellness and area health fairs," she concluded. To date, 2017 third party events have raised more than $34,000 for Francine's Friends, with additional events still happening in October, including a SkyZone promotion and the Summit Plastic Surgery Open House and fundraiser.

Then it was time to meet Tamyra, Patty and Vicki, this year's survivors, with the help of our feature video produced by Punch Films. All were diagnosed on the Francine’s Friends coach — Tamyra at East Allen County Schools, Patty at OmniSource, and Vicki at Life Center of Fort Wayne, a community site. The big fashion reveal was up next, showcasing the makeovers of our three special ladies courtesy of Julie Eckert Clancy, owner of Jophiel, Lacie's Hair Design and The Red Stiletto make-up artists. These beautiful ladies ROCKED the runway and brought the house down with their stage presence!

The other heart and soul of our annual luncheon — our generous Table Captains — were also acknowledged and thanked for their efforts in bringing together all of THEIR Friends to fill the seats, along with other community partners and supporters.

Each year, some very special Friends annually create a Sustaining Friendship Circle — “Bosom Buddies for Life” — through a $1,000 donation. All 2017 Bosom Buddies received a limited edition print of this year’s original artwork “Sowing Seeds of Love” created by our FRIEND and artist Terry Ratliff.  More than a quarter of a million dollars has been raised to support screening mammography and our mission through this giving circle! 2017 Bosom Buddies include: Ann Bobilya, Cheryl Brockmann, Sharon Eisbart, Ronda Hanning, Glynda Harris, Debbie Hirschfield, Nancy McNabb, Kim Murphy, Dar Richardson, Ari Rifkin, Judy Rifkin, Chris Rupp, Sharon Simmons, Debbie Swinford, Carolyn Tyndall, Irene Walters, and Mary Ann Ziembo.

This year's event luncheon sponsors were Kroger, Radiation Oncology Associations, Physicians Health Plan, Vera Bradley, Steel Dynamics, Briner, Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology, OmniSource, Do It Best, Emley Design Group, Glo Magazine, Punch Films, and Shaffer Multimedia.

2017 Corporate Tables included BAE Systems, Breast Diagnostic Center, Brigadoon Fitness, Lake City Bank, Medical Protective, Parkview Comprehensive Cancer Center, Old National Bank, PNC Bank, and Women’s Health Advantage. 

The luncheon closed with Linda Jackson reminding everyone of why we were together: "Through YOUR continued generosity, the mobile mammography coach will go out into Fort Wayne and our surrounding communities — to businesses, clinics, health fairs, community sites and rural sites in 11 counties in northeast Indiana — for screenings YOU make possible, and even MORE women will learn that 15 minutes can save a life," Jackson explained. "Through YOUR continued generosity, 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 their kids from school, or in between errands, and after taking care of and saving everyone else, can do something to potentially save themselves."

Since its inception, Francine’s Friends has funded 14,053 mammograms, and afforded 10,979 women their first screening mammogram. The all-volunteer organization has raised $1.6 million from its annual October fundraisers (from 2005-2016) to fund screening mammograms, and screened 40,085 women to date (June 2017) 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 mammogram is $140. Click here to make a donation online!

Click here to view the feature video from this year's "Lunch With Friends"

Click here to view the Facebook photo album from this year's "Lunch With Friends"

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Get YOUR Indiana IBCAT License Plate!

Francine’s Friends is a 2017 recipient of a grant for breast cancer screening from the Indiana Breast Cancer Awareness Trust, Inc. (IBCAT).  In 2017 alone, IBCAT granted nearly $400,000 to 34 organizations dedicated to screening mammography and diagnostic programs, including Francine’s Friends.

IBCAT receives funds through sales of breast cancer awareness specialty license plate.  Each IBCAT license plate sold generates a $25 donation. The Indiana Breast Cancer Awareness license plate can be purchased online or at any Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) branch. 

“Thank you IBCAT for improving the health of women in our communities!” exclaimed Francine’s Friends board president Sharon Simmons.  “IBCAT helps us fund screenings in Adams, Allen, Dekalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties in northeast Indiana.  “We are so grateful for the support from IBCAT.”

The mission of IBCAT is to increase awareness and improve access to breast cancer screening, diagnosis and support services throughout Indiana.  For more information on IBCAT, visit

Monday, September 25, 2017

October Glo Features Francine's Friends!

"Come one, come all. Be a friend. Bring a friend."

That's what page 30 of the October issue of Glo magazine asks us all to do. Glo magazine has been a long-time community partner and friend to Francine's Friends. Each issue helps create awareness by including the schedule for the Francine's Friends mobile mammography coach, how to schedule a mammogram, and a factoid about the importance of early detection as the best protection in the fight against breast cancer.

This October issue highlights Francine's Friends — the organization, its mission, its annual October "Lunch with Friends" fundraiser, and this year's featured survivors. In the article, long-time event sponsor Mark Millet, president and chief executive officer of Steel Dynamic, says this: “Francine’s Friends is providing a valuable service to our community and we are proud to be a community partner with them.”

Echoing Millet’s sentiments is Michelle Kearns, marketing communications director of Physicians Health Plan, who said, “Francine’s Friends shares our focus of supporting preventive health and early detection programs and we are proud to provide financial support for continued access to life-saving mammograms."

The "powerful cover" of the October issue was created by artist and Francine's Friends board member Donna Emley in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “Leaning Stronger” includes this description of the inspiration behind Donna's cover artwork: "While strength certainly comes from within us from places we uncover and discover, it also comes from being strong enough to say, ‘yes, I need help’ or ‘yes, I’ll let you help lighten my load.’ We become stronger emotionally, physically and mentally when we’re in community, when we share our power, when we open our hearts and when we hold on tight to each other. We survive and thrive when we seek and seize opportunities to lend our strength and accept someone else's strength.”

The September issue of Glo included a feature update of "Where Are They Now?" highlighting a few of the model/survivors from our annual "Lunch with Friends". It was good to offer Glo readers a chance to catch up with "Francine's Friends" Eva, Melissa, Angel, Donna K., and Ann.

"We are appreciative for our continued partnership and value Francine's Friends and its mission tremendously," said Executive Director Sue Rawlinson. And Francine's Friends is equally appreciative — we couldn't do it without the help of Sue, Melissa, Lynn, Barb, Betty, and all of our friends affiliated with Glo magazine, Senior Life and The Papers. Thank you for your continued friendship and commitment!

The October issue of Glo is on newsstands now!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Moonshine Cowboys 2017 "Ride for a Cause" Raises Record $23,000!

Francine's Friends board members were on hand when the kick stands went up! The 2017 Moonshine Cowboys "Ride for a Cause" with Brandt’s Harley Davidson took place on Saturday, August 5th, 2017. There were 204 motorcycles and over 360 riders – plus additional attendees at the live auction and dinner that followed the ride.

“The event, as always, was so full of enthusiasm and inspiration. It was heartwarming to see the dedication and determination of so many working together to save lives,” explained Irene Walters, Francine’s Friends Board Member. “We did our best to convey to as many as possible how grateful Francine’s Friends is for this event and support.”

“What a caring group of individuals who took a Saturday afternoon motorcycle ride and turned it into a major fundraiser to support breast cancer initiatives,” echoed Glynda Harris, Francine’s Friends Vice President and Board Member. “Everyone was wonderful, generous and downright fun. Our thanks to everyone involved in making this happen!”

The ride was created five years ago when the Moonshine Cowboys partnered with  Robert & Toni Metzger (Owners of 95.9 KISS FM – WKUZ Radio).  Toni lost her sister Susie to a rare form of breast cancer and created the ride with the Moonshine Cowboys in memory of her sister. The group planned and hosted what has come to be an annual “fight breast cancer” fundraiser that has grown every year, with the proceeds going to Francine’s Friends.  In 2016, the Moonshine Cowboys joined forces with Brandt’s Harley Davidson in Wabash.

“It was a really unique event with lots of happy bikers committed to both a good cause and a desire to help others - I loved the great tee shirts everyone was wearing, the amazing generosity and the awareness so many bikers created for early detection,” said Mary Ann Ziembo, Francine’s Friends Treasurer and Board Member.

The Moonshine Cowboys, Brandt’s Harley Davidson and 95.9 KISS FM – WKUZ Radio would like to thank everyone for making the 2017 event a great success. “We’re looking forward to 2018 being even more successful!” exclaimed co-founder and event organizer Toni Metzger.

Additional information can be found on or contact: Clarence Griese – Phone: (260) 571-1127 or Toni Metzger – Phone:  (260) 571-8142.

Event phoots can be found at: