Thank You to our Giving Circles Members: Rising Leaders Council

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. For the past 9 years, she has organized the 5K Walk for Hope in Long Island, New York and has raised nearly $200,000. 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

Meso Foundation Receives $11,000 Donation from the National Insulation Association

NIA Presents Donation to Meso FoundationOn May 13, Meso Foundation CEO Melinda Kotzian traveled to the Northern Virginia offices of the National Insulation Association (NIA) where she was presented with an $11,000 donation to the Foundation. NIA held a silent auction in April of 2014 as part of their annual convention, through which they raised $22,000. Half of the money was given to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, while the other half was given to the NIA Foundation for Education, Training, and Industry Advancement.

Founded in 1953, the National Insulation Association works to keep the commercial and industrial insulation industry up-to-date on industry trends and technological advances. The NIA Foundation for Education, Training, and Industry Advancement funds high-quality programs to increase awareness of the many benefits of insulation, and it has developed training and other industry-enriching programs.

Michele M. Jones, the Executive Vice President and CEO of NIA, personally presented the $11,000 donation to Melinda Kotzian. When asked why NIA chose the Meso Foundation as the recipient, Jones said, “We wanted to pick a charity that resonated with our members so that it would add to the meaningfulness of the silent auction and bring out the motivation of our members to donate.”

In its early years, NIA often saw the use of asbestos in insulation. In the 1950s and 60s, most insulators did not know of the risks involved with asbestos exposures. Due to the fact that mesothelioma has a latency period of 20 to 60 years, some insulators who were exposed to asbestos back then are now developing mesothelioma. Jones continued, “[Mesothelioma] has been prevalent throughout our history and we want to do our part and do what we can for those who have been affected by this disease.”

This donation helps the Meso Foundation maintain and improve its many programs, including its patient support services; development and distribution of online and offline educational materials; funding of the most promising research to develop life-saving treatments; and advocating the federal government for continued and increased funding of research. Upon receiving the donation at NIA, Melinda Kotzian noted, “As such a small organization, this amount makes a huge impact on what we do. Every dollar enables us to continue to operate our life-saving programs.”

To learn more about mesothelioma and Meso Foundation programs, visit

Holiday Fundraising Challenge in Review

Learn more about our mesothelioma fundraising effortsOn November 24th, the Meso Foundation presented the community with a mesothelioma fundraising challenge: raise $10,000 by the end of 2013. The Peace. Joy. Cure Holiday Fundraising Challenge, as it was called, had a big catch. A long-time, individual Meso Foundation donor with the wish of remaining anonymous would match every dollar donated to the fundraiser. By December 20th, we were very close to our goal, having reached $9,892. However, this is when the game changed. Hanne Mintz, another long-time Foundation supporter, stepped up to match an additional $10,000 raised through the Peace. Joy. Cure Holiday Fundraising Challenge. This brought the goal up to $20,000 with only 12 days left to reach it, and every dollar was to be matched.

We reached out to our community through Facebook, Twitter, email, and our blog to spread the word about our fundraising challenge, and we were met with huge success. The meso community did not simply reach the $20,000 goal, but they surpassed it. When the fundraising challenge ended on December 31st, we had raised $32,876 in donations from a total of 60 generous supporters.

The Meso Foundation’s community put in a huge effort to meet our challenge. Not only did they submit donations, but they also encouraged friends and family to do the same. Ivana Mihajlovic, a 4-year mesothelioma survivor and Foundation community member and volunteer, started her own email campaign to promote our fundraising challenge. We shared Ivana’s efforts with the rest of the community and encouraged them to follow in her lead.

With the match, the $32,876 raised through the Peace. Joy Cure Holiday Fundraising Challenge has now become a total of $52,876! These donations will go towards funding peer-reviewed mesothelioma research; providing patient support services and education; and advocating Congress for increased federal funding for mesothelioma research.

The Meso Foundation is extremely grateful for the community’s participation in the Peace. Joy. Cure Holiday Fundraising Challenge. We would like to sincerely thank Hanne Mintz and the anonymous donor who matched these gifts, as well as everyone who has donated and participated in our general year-end appeal. It is with your generosity and support that the Meso Foundation continues to do its work to advance mesothelioma treatments and provide patient support.

Mesothelioma fundraising efforts never stop. Donate today and help find a cure to mesothelioma.

Peace. Joy. Cure: A Meso Fundraising Challenge

Ivana Mihajlovic

Ivana Mihajlovic, a 4-year mesothelioma survivor, recently volunteered at the Meso Foundation office

As the end of the year is upon us, we would like to update you on our “Peace. Joy. Cure” holiday fundraising challenge. The challenge began on November 24th with a goal to raise $10,000 in online donations by the end of the year with an individual Meso Foundation donor willing to match every dollar up to $10,000. Now, the game has changed! Hanne Mintz has stepped up to match an additional $10,000. This brings our fundraising goal up to $20,000, and every dollar will be matched!

With only 12 days left in the challenge, we have currently raised $9,892. We need your help to get to $20,000 by December 31st! You can give now by visiting our fundraising challenge page.

Are you wondering where your donations will go or how they will be used? The Meso Foundation is the only 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating mesothelioma and easing the suffering caused by it. Your donations will go towards funding peer-reviewed mesothelioma research; providing patient support services and education; and advocating Congress for increased federal funding for mesothelioma research. The Meso Foundation is the only non-government funder of peer reviewed scientific research to establish more effective treatments for mesothelioma and, ultimately, a cure for this extremely aggressive cancer. To date, the Foundation has awarded over $8.2 million to research.


Aside from donating, there is more you can do to help with our fundraising efforts! In conjunction with our fundraising challenge, Ivana Mihajlovic, who is a 4-year mesothelioma survivor and Foundation community member and volunteer, began her own email campaign to encourage friends and family to donate. We would like to encourage you to use the following email template to join Ivana in her email fundraising efforts. Simply use this template to send to your own friends and family explaining why they should donate towards a cure for mesothelioma.

Dear, <First name>,

I am reaching out to you with these fundraising efforts because mesothelioma has personally affected me. <Explain here how mesothelioma has impacted you>.

As we wrap up 2013, I would like to invite you to join me in supporting the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. The Meso Foundation is the only non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating mesothelioma and easing the suffering caused by it. This organization has challenged the mesothelioma community to raise $20,000 by December 31st. Every dollar raised within the online campaign will be matched by two long-time, individual Meso Foundation donors up to $20,000.

Mesothelioma is a malignant tumor of the lining of the lung, abdomen, or heart known to be caused by exposure to asbestos. Medical experts consider it one of the most aggressive and deadly of all cancers. Approximately 3,500 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year and an estimated one-third were exposed while serving in the Navy or working in Navy shipyards.

By giving to the Meso Foundation, your donations will go towards funding peer-reviewed mesothelioma research; providing patient support services and education; and advocating Congress for increased federal funding for mesothelioma research. The Meso Foundation is the only non-government funder of peer-reviewed scientific research to establish more effective treatments for mesothelioma and, ultimately, a cure for this extremely aggressive cancer. To date, the Foundation has awarded over $8.2 million to research.

I encourage you to support the mission of the Meso Foundation and help us find a cure for this deadly cancer. Donate now at

Thank you,

<Your name>

Without the support of our community, our efforts towards curing mesothelioma would not be possible. We would like to thank everyone who supports the Foundation and works with us to eradicate this disease. To learn more about the Meso Foundation and our mission, visit


Meso Awareness Day Events: Part One

ROD's Benefit for MesoSeptember 26th is nationally recognized as Mesothelioma Awareness Day. As important as it is to spread awareness every day of the year, September 26th is the biggest day to do so. Events are one of the best ways to raise awareness and funds for mesothelioma, and there are many coming up surrounding September 26th. As mesothelioma is a widely unknown and underfunded form of cancer, raising awareness is a huge step in the right direction towards finding a cure.

Four events will be held on Saturday, September 21st. The weekend will start off with Mission Cure Meso: Run for a Cure. Beginning at 8am, Karen and Mark Kalber will be running in the Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Ohio in honor of Rich Mosca and all meso warriors. Karen will be running a full marathon, and Mark will be running a half marathon. Anyone interested can support their efforts in the race by heading to Karen and Mark’s fundraising page.

Kayaking 4 Meso

Mark Wells’ 3rd Annual Kayaking 4 Meso event will also be held on September 21st. This one-way kayaking event will have two launch times. The first launch will be a 16-mile paddle beginning at Fort Hardy Park in Schuylerville, New York at 8am. Everyone will meet in Stillwater, New York for the second, 3-mile launch at around 12pm. All kayakers will finish the paddle together at Mechanicville Boat Dock in Mechanicville, New York where festivities will continue until 4pm. For more information, visit the event’s website at

In Alton, Illinois, the 5th Annual Miles for Meso Alton event will start at 8am on September 21st to raise funds for mesothelioma research. This event will consist of a 5k Race as well as a 2k Fun Run/Walk. There will also be activities for children, live music, and vendors. Those interested in registering for the race can do so for $30 at Registration will also open the morning of the event at 7:30am for $35. For additional information, contact the event organizer Julie Gundlach at 314-616-9272.

Closing out September 21st is ROD’s 4th Annual Benefit for Meso at Eleanor Town Park in Eleanor, West Virginia. Registration will begin at 10:30am for $25, which includes an event t-shirt as well as other goodies. A 5k run/walk with a purple and lime green color scheme will be held in the morning with prizes for the best times. Throughout the day, there will also be lunch, live music, family activities, and raffles. More event information can be found at or through the event organizer Missy Bowles at 304-395-0636.

There will be two events on Sunday, September 22nd in Ohio and New York. The Bruce A Waite Miles for Meso 5k Run/Walk will be held at Ontario High School in Ontario, Ohio. Registration will open at 1pm and the 5k will begin at 2pm. For more information, visit In Phelps, New York, Mission Cure Meso: Annual Dog Walk for Meso will be held at Ontario County Pathways beginning at 1pm. This event is being held in memory of Dr. John Wright. Janice Wright, the organizer, can be contacted at for more information.

Want to join the cause in the fight against mesothelioma? See more on how you can get involved.