After watching her grandmother die, a fourth-year social work student from Miami, Janay White, helped formed a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with her aunt, Sereda White.
“We just knew at that point my granny would have, if it was anyone else in the family, definitely been an advocate for pancreatic cancer,” Janay said.
Barbara White, who was diagnosed in early May of 2007 and died June 26, 2007. Janay and her aunt established The Barbara White Foundation, Inc. on September 10, 2007. It received its non-profit status in June 2009.
“I was staying with her…and was actually caregiver when it happened,” Janay said. “After she died, we took a vacation. We kind of just stayed to ourselves to reflect on what happened, because she died in the house.”
Janay said she was surprised at how quickly her grandmother died after she was diagnosed. Her sudden death took the family by surprise.
“It happens so fast,” Janay said. “It was a shock to us we never heard of pancreatic cancer before until she was diagnosed with it; we just saw her deteriorating in front of us.”
Janay’s aunt, Sereda, is an alumna of FAMU class of 1985 and a clinical staff pharmacist at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
Sereda, after the death of her mother, wanted to find more funding for research and effective early detection screenings and treatments for pancreatic cancer.
“When I was looking for information when my mother was diagnosed, I couldn’t find very much,” Sereda said. “I found one organization, another non-profit by the name of Pancan– Pancreatic Cancer Action Network– and that was the only resource that I was able to find as far as getting information.”
Janay and her aunt became president and vice-president of the organization, instilling the motto: Making known, the lesser known, Pancreatic Cancer.
Jan. 15, the foundation’s first fundraising event was held at the Latitude 30 entertainment center in Jacksonville. The event was held in memory of Kathleen Robertson, who was the fourth sister in a group of seven sisters, to die of pancreatic cancer. The other three sisters were Lillian Beatty, Barbara White and Mildred Williams.
Annette Turner is the youngest of the seven sisters and a parent coordinator at primary schools in Adel, Ga. She also helped host the event by registering people, selling the foundation’s t-shirts and with soliciting donations.
As a little girl, Turner used to spend her summer vacations with Barbara in Miami.
“As a sister, that’s who I would talk to,” Turner said. “It was rough. It’s only three of us girls left now.”
With many sponsors, including the Motor Harley-Davidson Company and a Volvo car dealership, the event gathered roughly 50 registered supporters who bowled, gave donations and purchased a t-shirt with the foundation’s logo.
White and her aunt cited www.cancer.org in a brochure the passed out at the event. The statistic reported that “only one and a half percent of the National Cancer Institute’s $4.8 billion budget is spent on finding pancreatic cancer causes, diagnoses and treatment.”
White and her aunt want a purple ribbon to be the symbol for pancreatic cancer, and it to be as recognizable as the pink breast cancer ribbon.
“Expressing the need for early detection of pancreatic cancer is our goal,” Turner said.
The family’s next initiative is to hold more events throughout Florida.
Janay promotes the foundation on her Facebook page. Her goal is to gather a large enough student following to help her host a candlelight vigil or a walk to promote awareness of pancreatic cancer at FAMU.
“This cause is very dear to me,” Janay said. “I’m just asking for support.”