Supporter Spotlight: Care for the Rare

Jul 18, 2016 | News, Patient Stories

UPDATE! We’re happy to say that the walk was a major success, attracting over 300 people! In addition to the Gold Award project, Natalie raised close to $22,000 for TargetCancer Foundation! Please join us in congratulating Natalie on this amazing accomplishment! You can see pictures from the event here

Written by Karen Dempsey

Eighteen-year-old Natalie Bennett has spent a long time – years – waiting for the right idea to come along for her Girl Scout Gold Award Project. The Gold Award is the highest achievement in Girl Scouts, representing the deepest commitment and dedication to the values of the organization.

When the right idea came, it was, unexpectedly, in the midst of crisis.

A rare cancer diagnosis spurs action

me and aunt stefi copy

Natalie’s aunt, Stefanie Yates, was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma in October 2015. The rare cancer is the same disease that affected TargetCancer Foundation founder Paul Poth, though the family was yet to learn of Paul’s legacy.

Stunned at the diagnosis, members of the close-knit family began researching cholangiocarcinoma and its treatments in earnest.

“We were devastated,” says Natalie. “It was cancer—but one we had never heard of. We didn’t know where to start.”

They faced the distressing awakening that confronts all rare cancer victims and their loved ones as they realized that little was known about how best to treat the cancer. Meanwhile, Natalie’s aunt has persevered through multiple aggressive rounds of treatment and survived a stroke related to the cholangiocarcinoma, which can cause blood clotting in some patients.

“She continues to endure three different types of chemo as well as occupational and physical therapy to recover from the effects of the stroke,” Natalie says. I am so inspired by her strength and determination, but I’ve seen how horrible this rare cancer is. Although it is considered rare, it actually affects many people.”

Natalie’s research into cholangiocarcinoma and rare cancers eventually led her to TargetCancer Foundation. She reached out to Executive Director Jim Palma with the kernel of an idea. Through conversations with Jim, her family and her troop, Care for the Rare was born.

“I decided to do a walk including other activities—a DJ, educational booths and resources, face-painting, and a raffle with prizes. It’s a serious, sad topic that is very close to my heart, but I want this to be a fun and uplifting event.

“I am thankful to have the support of my whole family for Care for the Rare. My aunt will be there as well and she is looking forward to the event,” says Natalie.

Separate from her Gold Award project, Natalie is fundraising for TargetCancer Foundation. Natalie is setting the bar high, with a fundraising goal of $10,000. “It may be a stretch,” she says, “But I know that through community effort, we can make it a reality.

A sustaining effort to support and educate

nat walking gs 3copy

Natalie’s goals are to educate people about rare cancers — to build awareness, support, and a sense of community, not only for her own family but also for others struggling with a rare cancer diagnosis, now or in the future.

In fact, part of the Gold Award Project is educating others about the efforts you’ve undertaken, an aspect that Natalie quickly realized fit well with her advocacy effort. Also essential to earning the Gold Award is creating a project that is sustainable, so that the effort doesn’t end when the project is completed. To that end, Natalie arranged for friends in her high school’s Stand Up To Cancer Club to take over Care for the Rare when Natalie moves on—she is headed to Boston University to study political science in the fall.

At TargetCancer Foundation, we are grateful for Natalie’s support and especially glad to know she will soon be a neighbor of ours. With the energy and commitment she’s already brought to the planning of this project, we know that she will have soon struck gold.

Event Details: 
July 30, 2016
9am – 12pm
Laguna Niguel, California