At the Meso Foundation’s annual symposium — this year, happening July 12-13 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC — individuals are bestowed honors for superlative service to the community, ranging from volunteer efforts to advancement in research. The Volunteer of the Year award honors an individual who has given both time and resources to advance the mission of the Meso Foundation. Recipients of this achievement have taken it upon themselves to make sure that mesothelioma, its devastating effects, and the pressing necessity of ongoing research continues to be brought to the forefront of the world in order to effect change. This year, the Meso Foundation is thrilled to bestow this honor to Erica Iacono and Janice Malkotsis. Erica and Janice have over the past seven years been organizing a run/walk in the New York area, raising over $100,000 for mesothelioma. They are huge advocates for mesothelioma awareness and research, and continue to assist the Meso Foundation in getting the word out there about this disease.
Erica Iacono took a moment to chat with us at the Meso Foundation about how she and Janice began their collaboration to raise awareness. “We actually met through the Meso Foundation. My dad passed away in 2000 from mesothelioma, and I eventually got in touch with the Foundation, wanting to volunteer, raise awareness; but at the time, the Meso Foundation was a brand new organization so the volunteer network was limited.
“In 2005, Janice’s dad passed away and eventually she contacted the Foundation. They knew that I had been talking about doing a fundraiser in my area, so the Foundation connected us and the rest is history!”
The idea for a walk/run happened like most great ideas — it was an organic process. “At first we just emailed one another, corresponding and kicking around ideas,” Erica recalls. “Then Janice mentioned the idea of wanting to do a walk. Location wasn’t an issue as she lives on Long Island as does my mom and sisters. The big issue, aside from paperwork and administrative details, was timing. We finally decided having our first walk/run in Spring 2006.
“The day of the event — it was a literal monsoon. No kidding. We showed up to the park and were huddled under the awning of the bathroom, freaking out a bit. We expected no one to show up.”
Erica and Janice, however, were given a delightful surprise on their downpour of a day. “150 people showed up, wearing ponchos and brandishing huge umbrellas. Everyone walked. Everyone. In the rain. Once we were done, we continued with our schedule, held our raffle, and in the end we raised $20,000!”
This lesson of determination has carried them every year through their annual walk/run since then, and their numbers continue to grow. “We average about 150 to 200 people each year. We have our regulars — friends, family, and friends of family — but every year we welcome new walkers and runners, all dedicated in finding a cure.”
Erica and Janice are thrilled to be receiving this honor from the Meso Fondation. “We know that the work that we do helps the Foundation do the work that helps so many people. And we’re glad that we’ve been able to make something good come out of the tragedy of our dads passing away from mesothelioma.”
Have you made arrangements to join us — either virtually or physically — for this year’s symposium? The Meso Foundation Symposium 2012 takes place in Washington DC this year, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. This year, along with our award recipients, guests will include Barbara Kimbark, PhD, Anna McCurdy, RN, Lee Krug, MD, and many others discussing a wide range of topics covering the latest research, new approaches to fundraising, and reflective moments with members of the meso community. With so many amazing people in attendance, come join us in Washington DC or join us online as we at the Meso Foundation ask you “What’s Your Question?”