Friday, October 19, 2018

2018 14th Annual "LUNCH with FRIENDS"

Nearly 500 women (and men) attended the 14th annual “Lunch with Friends” at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum 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, encouraging the crowd to take selfies and celebrate 1,000 iikes on Facebook, while helping to trend #FrancinesFriends on social media.

Survivor, and “conqueror” Tamyra Kelly offered the invocation and then Rebecca Nelson, Lead Genetic Counselor, Parkview Health, took the podium to share her connection with Francine’s Friends before performing “At the Beginning” from Anastasia while guests enjoyed lunch. Jackson returned to thank this year’s sponsors for their partnership and community support. This year’s event luncheon sponsors included Kroger, Radiation Oncology Associations, Steel Dynamics, Briner, Vera Bradley, Physicians Health Plan, OmniSource, Emley Design Group, and Glo Magazine.  2018 Corporate Tables included BAE Systems, Breast Diagnostic Center, Lake City Bank, MedPro, Parkview Cancer Institute, and PNC Bank. Also acknowledged was this year’s  “Bosom Buddies for Life” — an annual sustaining circle of women who donate $1,000 each year to Francine’s Friends. 2018 Bosom Buddies include Ann Bobilya, Carol Busses, Sharon Eisbart, Glynda Harris, Debbie Hirschfield, Ari Rifkin, Judy Rifkin, Chris Rupp, Debbie Swinford, Kathy Summers, and Irene Walters. More than a quarter of a million dollars have been raised to support screening mammography and the Francine’s Friends mission through this giving circle!

Jackson then welcomed Marita Dwight-Smith, director of Francine’s Friends Mobile Mammography Program, to the stage for her remarks. Marita asked the former Francine’s Friends board members to join her for a special presentation. “Without their vision and hard work, this program would not be possible,” Dwight-Smith explained. “You all have been mentors to me and I am beyond grateful. Thank you for your trust in me with my new role,” she concluded. Each board member was presented with a warm hug and a limited edition print of this year’s program cover and notecard artwork “Untitled” — created by local artist Terry Ratliff. According to Ratliff, the original artwork represents “downtown Fort Wayne and the impact and role the Francine’s Friends mobile mammography coach has had in the past, and will continue to have in the future.”

Dwight-Smith also acknowledged and thanked two key community partners — Parkview Cancer Institute and Breast Diagnostic Center — for their dedication to the mission and continuous support of the mobile mammography program. “We simply could not do this without you,” Dwight-Smith emphasized.

Every year, third party fundraisers are held and portions of funds raised are donated to Francine’s Friends. Dwight-Smith next brought Toni Metzger and representatives from The Moonshine Cowboys on stage to thank them for the “Ride for the Cause” event, which started in 2013 in memory of Toni’s sister. This year’s “Ride for the Cause” raised $24,122 for Francine’s Friends and the behind-the-scenes video that was shown demonstrated why this is such a popular event for so many.

Jackson then returned to the stage to introduce this year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Linda Han, Breast Care Team Director of the Parkview Cancer Institute. Dr. Han’s presentation was both educational and inspiring, and the crowd loved her warmth, intellect, and message of hope to both newly diagnosed women as well as survivors and thrivers.

The luncheon closed with Conqueror Tamyra Kelly retuning to the stage to thank Francine’s Friends for “saving her life” and turning her into a champion for the importance of early detection and screening mammography. Then Linda Jackson and Marita Dwight-Smith closed the event by reminding everyone of why the group was together: “Through YOUR continued generosity, the mobile mammography coach will go out into Fort Wayne and the 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 concluded.

Since its inception, Francine’s Friends has funded 15,612 mammograms and screened almost 44,000 women to date (June 2018) 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. Checks should be made payable to Francine’s Friends and mailed to

Click here to view the Moonshine Cowboys Video from this year’s “Lunch With Friends”

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