Update from our Founder

January 31, 2018 -
An Important Update from Our Founder… “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” - Ecclesiastes 3:1 Dear friends: It is with mixed emotions, but mostly with an abundance of gratefulness and continued HOPE that I share important news about the future of our beloved, all-volunteer-run, non-profit organization. I want to first provide some necessary background for those who may not have been familiar with A Message of Hope Cancer Fund, since our founding nine years ago. On my 31st birthday – as a school teacher, married and blessed with two beautiful young daughters – I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, Merkel Cell Carcinoma. Needless to say, I was devastated and fearful for what the future would bring. The cancer had formed a tumor on my left cheek. I began immediate treatment and underwent several facial surgeries to remove the tumor, tissues and test lymph nodes, before undergoing an extensive round of radiation. This was followed by several reconstructive surgeries to repair the left side of my face. It was a very difficult time for me and my family, but the love we shared and our unwavering faith in God, along with great medical care, helped to guide us on a road to recovery and healing. A year later, when the doctors told me I was cancer-free, I was both joyful and thankful. My loving family and friends wanted to celebrate with a big party. While I was grateful for the gesture, I felt strongly that God was calling me to turn my personal ordeal into something positive – to begin spreading “A Message of Hope” to cancer patients in need. Even though my husband and I both worked for the school system and were fortunate to have excellent health insurance, we learned first-hand how anyone battling cancer not only faces immense medical and personal challenges, but also financial burdens. With the support of my family and friends, we went forward with that celebration. But instead of a simple party, we turned it into a fundraiser to help the family of a young lady with cancer, as they were struggling with the resulting monetary burdens associated with her battle. That event would become our first annual gala and it officially marked the launch of A Message of Hope Cancer Fund. Today, nine years later, I am so proud of all that we have accomplished together, still as an all-volunteer organization run by a small, but dedicated board and a core of spirited event volunteers. We have remained true to our mission of providing direct monetary support to area cancer patients and families in need, with the assistance of dedicated social workers who help to verify the financial needs of all of our grant applicants. We have made backlogged rent and mortgage payments to make sure families facing a cancer battle are not put out on the streets. We have paid electric bills and made sure water or gas service was not cut off for struggling families. We have provided assistance to help patients with medical co-payment expenses, transportation costs to get to treatments, and provided gift cards for grocery purchases. Much of the funds we have raised have come through major events, such as our annual gala and golf tournament. Last year, we crossed a major milestone, surpassing the one-million-dollar mark for total dollars raised since our inception in 2008. It is with great pride that we report that we have been able to assist more than 400 families to date. As we mark the start of another year, our Board of Directors came together recently to reflect on all that we have accomplished. We are abundantly proud of our efforts, but mostly we are humbled and grateful that so many of you have generously joined us in this noble work. We have loved every minute of this work. But as a group of volunteers – all with very busy and full family and professional lives – it has become increasingly hard for us to give the necessary effort that it takes to continue operating a growing, non-profit organization with such a critical mission. Most recently, I was named principal of a very large, underperforming, Title 1 school and witness on a daily basis the impact poverty has on children and their families. I am passionately dedicated to ensuring my students have access to a high-quality education and opportunities that will positive change their future. That is why, with love in our hearts and with the HOPE that has always driven our cause, we have decided that we should spend 2017 wrapping up our operations and distributing our remaining funds to patients in need. Our plan is to accept donations through September 30, 2017, and to distribute all of our remaining funds by December 31, 2017. Please know that while we plan to shut down the organization by the end of the year, our personal commitment to helping cancer patients in need will go on. We will continue, as individuals, to support other organizations with similar missions. I hope and trust you will join us in doing so, in your own way. Consequently, we are pleased to announce that several of our volunteers in Southern Maryland will be joining forces with Linda Williams, President of our Southern Maryland branch, to establish their own 501©3 to provide direct financial support to families facing cancer in Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties. We will rally around them as they begin this exciting journey! On behalf of our Board and our volunteers, I simply cannot thank all of you enough for all of your amazing support of the Fund over the past nine years. I sincerely hope you are as proud as I am of all that we have accomplished together and that you are as motivated as we are to continue to find ways to help those in need. May God bless all of you and your families, and especially all of the patients and families who are impacted by the challenges that come with battling cancer. In HOPE, as always, Meredith McNerney Founder & Executive Director

In addition to the already burdensome costs of treating cancer, when a child or family member is critically ill, one parent may have to leave his or her job to care for them. This makes it difficult for families to cover expenses they previously did not have difficulty with, such as utility bills, rent or mortgage payments, rising gas costs, and other everyday expenses. MHCF offers families assistance with some of these costs.