Thank You to our Giving Circles Members: Rising Leaders Council

Giving Circles

Giving CirclesIn 2014, the Meso Foundation established four Giving Circles to provide a source of vital funding for its patient programs and research grants. In exchange for annual unrestricted donations, members receive varied benefits and recognition. The Blue Ribbon Council provides an avenue for individuals who have lost loved ones to mesothelioma to come together for support. The Warrior Council offers mesothelioma patients, their family members and caregivers a safe haven where they can lean on and learn from each other while battling this disease. The Meso Professionals Council offers a place for professionals working in the mesothelioma field to demonstrate their commitment to the Meso Foundation and the individuals it serves.

Today, we would like to highlight the Rising Leaders Council. This is the first installment of a series of blog posts in which we will provide you the opportunity to get to know our council members and thank them for their commitment to the mission to cure mesothelioma.

The Meso Foundation established the Rising Leaders Council to create a community for up-and-coming fundraisers and advocates to come together in support of the Meso Foundation. Together, Rising Leaders Council members will help obtain the resources needed for the organization to continue its quest to eradicate mesothelioma.

Below, learn more about each of our Rising Leaders Council members.

Aria BendixAria Bendix

In 2009, Aria Bendix founded the Santa Margarita Catholic High School Breath of Hope Club in honor of her father, Ken, who passed away from peritoneal mesothelioma. In the past, she has interned for the Meso Foundation and helped to raise money for the Ken Bendix Memorial Research Grant through various volunteer efforts. Aria is from Trabuco Canyon, California and currently attends Harvard University.


Bella BendixIsabella Bendix

Isabella Bendix is President of the Breath of Hope Club started at her high school in honor of her father, Ken, who passed away from mesothelioma in September 2009. The proceeds from the Club’s fundraising events go toward the “Ken Bendix 2nd Memorial Research Grant.” Isabella has volunteered her time over the last three summers to work directly at the Meso Foundation. This past summer, she visited Senate offices to advocate for establishing a scientific framework for mesothelioma. Isabella is a high school senior and resides in Trabuco Canyon, California.


Marco BrittMarco D. Britt

Marco Britt has been involved with the Meso Foundation since 2014 when his father, Dennis E. Britt, passed away from pleural mesothelioma. He is dedicated to finding a cure and raising funds and awareness for mesothelioma warriors and their families. Marco is an attorney who lives in Miami, Florida.


Chastity BrownChastity Brown

Chastity Brown’s life was forever changed when her father, Glen D. Brown, passed away from mesothelioma. She is committed to raising awareness and funds for the Meso Foundation in memory of her father. Chastity has attended multiple fundraising events across the country to show her support for the meso community. She currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky and works as a Privacy and Compliance Consultant. Chastity also has a daughter in college.


Darlene CarenzaDarlene Carenza

Darlene Carenza connected with the Meso Foundation shortly after her mother, Donna Serbalik, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2011. After attending her first Symposium with her mother and advocating on Capitol Hill, Darlene vowed to get more involved with the foundation and help others who share the same struggles. Her mother passed away the same year — just a month after Darlene found out she was pregnant with her daughter (and future Rising Leader) Parker Rose. Darlene has hosted and participated in fundraising events and is dedicated to raising awareness and increasing funding for a cure. Darlene resides in Palmetto Bay, Florida with her husband and daughter. She is a Senior Produce and Content Director for Travelzoo.


Jennifer GelsickJennifer Gelsick

Jennifer Gelsick has dedicated herself to raising funds and awareness for mesothelioma warriors and their families since her father, Donald Edward Smitely, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Despite the loss of her father, she remains committed to the Meso Foundation and has held a variety of fundraisers. Jennifer lives in Saint Marys, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter. She and her husband own a home inspection company.

Erica IaconoErica Iacono

Erica Iacono has been involved with the Meso Foundation since 2000 when her father passed away from pleural mesothelioma. Erica is also a board member for the Meso Foundation. She resides in Manhattan and is a writer working in public relations.



Sarah LacknerSarah Lackner

Sarah Lackner is a CPA residing in Arlington, Virginia. She has lost four family members to mesothelioma, most recently her mother Susan (2011) and her aunt Linda (2012). She is committed to the Meso Foundation’s mission of ending the disease and helping all of those affected. Sarah’s father, Ted Lackner, serves on the Meso Foundation’s Board of Directors.



Marina MintzMarina Mintz

Marina Mintz’s reality was turned upside down when her brother and best friend, Adam, was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in early 2000. After he died, Marina was determined to do something to help find a cure in hopes that others would not have to be subjected to this insidious disease. Marina has been involved in raising funds for the Meso Foundation since her very first event in December 2002 and she continues raising money by doing what she knows – throwing parties! Since that first event, Marina has joined forces with another member of the mesothelioma community with whom she co-hosts a poker tournament in the summer. Marina lives in Los Angeles, CA (soon to be Austin, TX) and is President of Paragon Language Services, the company her mother Hanne founded in 1991.


Jennifer ToddJennifer Todd

Jennifer Todd is the proud daughter of George Zachmann, a mesothelioma warrior living in Neavitt, Maryland. Jennifer has been inspired by her dad’s strength and would like to help the Meso Foundation increase asbestos and mesothelioma awareness and raise funds for clinical trials. Jennifer lives in Miami Beach, Florida with her two daughters and works for Morgan Stanley.



Jill WaiteJill Waite

Since 2012, Jill Waite has directed the Bruce A. Waite Mile for Meso 5k Run/Walk in Ohio. Her fundraising efforts not only raise awareness and funds for the Meso Foundation, but also help connect patients and families. She dedicates her race to her father, meso warriors, and their families. Jill works as a Counselor and Chaplain and resides in Ontario, Ohio. She is Godmother to Jack and Kate.


To learn more about the Rising Leaders Council and become a member, contact Erica Ruble at

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