Asbestos Awareness Week and Prevention of Mesothelioma

Asbestos Awareness Week Fundraising ChallengeToday is Day 3 of Asbestos Awareness Week. We honor this week by providing our community and the general public with educational information, blog posts, press releases, and important facts necessary to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos and to prevent dangerous exposures to asbestos.

Also, in honor of this important week, the Meso Foundation launched its new prevention program with focus on early detection research, prevention of asbestos exposures, and prevention of disease development.

Particularly, with respect to prevention, the Meso Foundation is placing a strong focus on education for the general public, as well as workers at risk of occupational exposure.

The EPA estimates that asbestos is still present in tens of millions of homes, government buildings, schools, and has also been found naturally-occurring in the soil in several locations in the United States, sometimes in very close proximity to inhabited areas. According to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an estimated 1.3 million construction employees continue to be occupationally exposed to asbestos.

When disturbed, asbestos particles become airborne and are easily inhaled. No amount of exposure is deemed safe.

Because most cases of mesothelioma are known to be caused by exposure to asbestos, we believe that prevention of exposures to asbestos, and other known carcinogens associated with the development of mesothelioma, will contribute to our mission of eradicating mesothelioma. Read our full prevention program mission here.

Investing in expanding our programs does not come without cost. In honor of our launch, two generous donors have offered up to $12,000 in matching funds for donations made in honor of Asbestos Prevention Week. If successful, this would mean a total of $24,000 for the Meso Foundation to use for prevention, research, education, support, and advocacy.

Please help us reach this goal by making a tax-deductible donation!

If you missed this week’s posts, here they are:
Announcing the Meso Foundation’s New Prevention Program
Meso Foundation to speak at BoRit Asbestos Superfund Citizen Advisory Group Meeting
Asbestos, its History, and its Dangerous Presence in Daily Life
Help us Launch our NEW Prevention Program!
Know Before You Buy: Asbestos Available for Purchase Online

The Meso Foundation is the only 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating mesothelioma and easing the suffering caused by this cancer. The Meso Foundation actively seeks philanthropic support to fund peer-reviewed mesothelioma research; provide patient support services and education; and advocate Congress for increased federal funding for mesothelioma research. The Meso Foundation is the only non-government funder of peer reviewed scientific research to establish effective treatments for mesothelioma and, ultimately, a cure for this extremely aggressive cancer. To date, the Foundation has awarded over $9 million to research. More information is available at

Help us Launch our NEW Prevention Program!

Asbestos HazardTwo Meso Foundation supporters dedicated to mesothelioma prevention have pledged to donate up to $12,000 if we can match it. This would mean a total of $24,000 for the Meso Foundation to use for prevention, research, education, support, and advocacy.

We need your help reaching this goal! Please help us match the $12,000 pledge by donating online here. If you wish to donate by check or over the phone, please call us.

Thank you in advance for your support!


Learn more about the Meso Foundation’s new prevention program at

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. 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

Thank You to Tim McDonnell

Tim McDonnellThe Meso Foundation would like to thank Tim McDonnell for his participation in the HITS Triathlon Series in Naples, Florida to raise funds for the Meso Foundation. Tim annually hosts fundraising events for the foundation, and his dedication to our mission is greatly appreciated. Below, read the article written about Tim’s participation in the triathlon from Naples Daily News.

NAPLES, Fla. – He had just swam 1,500 meters, biked about 25 miles, and ran close to a quarter marathon, but Timothy McDonnell still kept a brisk pace to greet her.

She was standing near the finish line having earlier completed a triathlon of her own, but still looked radiant in a bright yellow athletic tank top with short blonde hair. McDonnell hobbled over quickly, paused for an iPad photo, before embracing her with a hug and a kiss.

McDonnell and his wife, Andrea, had come a long way for this moment.

Part of the HITS Triathlon Series held in Naples this weekend, Timothy, 52, and Andrea McDonnell, 50, completed the Olympic and Sprint distance events, respectively.

But their accomplishments were really just another leg on a longer journey, one that expands beyond the miles they trekked Sunday.

It begins, with sickness and tragedy, in Michigan.

In 2009, Timothy McDonnell’s brother-in-law died of mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer — he’d been diagnosed five years prior, right after his honeymoon.

That same year, Andrea McDonnell was living what she calls a “miserable” existence in Michigan. She, too, had been given a diagnosis — breast cancer, in 2008 — and her chemotherapy sessions were all but unbearable.

“You’re watching the nurses get into full protective gear, and they take a bag that has a bio-hazard label on it, and they’re dumping it into the vein that goes right into your heart,” Andrea McDonnell said Sunday. “They’re completely protected, but they’re dumping it into my heart.”

Andrea McDonnell, almost literally, stayed on the couch for five years.

“You sit down and you don’t move,” said McDonnell, whose chemotherapy ended in 2013. “You have no energy. You feel sick all the time. I had pain everywhere.”

Timothy McDonnell tried to keep his wife active. After Andrea was diagnosed, Timothy began participating in cancer fundraisers every year. He’s done nine breast cancer walks, five rides-for-the-cure, and scores of other events.

For the past three years, Timothy McDonnell has competed in triathlons, in part to honor his late brother-in-law and raise cancer research money.

Andrea, who gained 70 pounds during chemo, tried accompanying Timothy to his spin classes at the gym. Always in pain, she couldn’t get through the workouts without crying.

“It was so freaking hard,” Andrea said, tearing up.

But in August 2013, the family hired a trainer who got Andrea on a diet and a daily training regimen. She lost the 70 pounds she gained — plus five more pounds — and began competing in triathlons like her husband.

On Sunday, Andrea finished the Sprint distance event — a 750-meter swim, 12.4-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run — in 1 hour, 42 minutes and 47 seconds, good for ninth place in her age group.

“It’s a good means to an end,” she said about triathlons. “I’m really proud to say that I’m now able to do it. Not everybody’s able to do one.”

The McDonnells were a couple of the estimated 2,000 visitors to the city this weekend for the HITS Triathlon Series, held in Naples for the fourth year. The event brought about $1 million in revenue, according to the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau, and attracted international competition, including athletes from the United Arab Emirates and Puerto Rico.

Most of the weekend, intersections on Vanderbilt Beach Road were manned by traffic officers, allowing for participants in the triathlons’ bike portions to pedal through. But cars still were allowed on the roads, which caused some issues.

Mike Aubrey, an athlete competing in the half triathlon, said he was struck by a car while biking Saturday morning. He said he was making a turn on his route when a car pulled out in front of him, cutting off the bike lane, and sent him crashing between the car and the guardrail.

“People are clueless. Really it’s a shame,” said Aubrey, who was able to finish the race. “It was a fun race, but the drivers are just crazy.”

Timothy McDonnell didn’t have any issues with his bike portion. That part is probably his strength, he said. But he struggled during the final leg — his 6.2-mile run in the Florida sun.

“About mile four, the heat was starting to get to me,” McDonnell said. “We haven’t had this weather in Michigan in four months.”

At the finish line, McDonnell came huffing and puffing across. His run portion was more like a “walk/jog,” he would say later. He doubled over for a moment while receiving his medal, but he quickly lifted his head up to lock eyes with his wife, waiting for him several yards away.

Then he started moving again.

Meso Warrior Heather Nash Makes Video to Raise Awareness

Heather NashThe Meso Foundation was recently featured in a video released by a mesothelioma warrior, Heather Nash, whose goal was to correct misconception about this deadly cancer and to request that viewers support the Meso Foundation.

In the video, Heather leafs through written cardboard sheets from which the viewer learns about her story. On them, she says, “My name is Heather. I am a daughter. I am a wife. I am a mom. I was a nurse. I was healthy. I have cancer. Mesothelioma. Average life expectancy: 9 to 18 months. I need your help to find a cure. Please give at”

When asked about her reason for making the video, Heather explains that her goal was to show that the face of meso often isn’t the one seen on late night TV commercials.

“This cancer does not discriminate and I am an example of that,” says Heather.

“Also, being a relatively rare cancer, research into it gets little funding. I hope this video can help change that,” she added.

View the video below and visit to support the Meso Foundation’s life-saving programs and patient services.