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”