Mom, daughter’s creativity, Connections have been giving back for nearly 20 years – Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
When it comes to a dynamic duo, Debbie and Mikki Bennett are the mother-daughter pair taking the cause of pancreatic cancer by storm.
This Kansas City and Southern California team has used its own unique talents to support PanCAN for nearly 20 years. After Debbie’s mother, Naomi, was diagnosed with the disease in 2003, Debbie knew she had to do something. At the time, there were very few survivors she could talk to who would give her hope for her mother’s future. She knew we needed more survivors and she would stop at nothing to do what she could to help. It wasn’t until six months after the diagnosis that Debbie’s mother, her inspiration, was gone.
In 2003, Debbie saw an organization making bracelets to support a better known cancer. She thought she could do the same to support the cancer that claimed her mother’s life.
One day she went to the store and bought $50 worth of bracelet-making supplies that she too would sell to raise funds. Debbie began using her creativity and her mother as inspiration to start her business, Naomi’s Bracelets. At first it took a little longer, but now she says she can make one in about 15 minutes. She sold them at her daughter’s school and even in a few small shops.
Four years after Debbie’s mother died, her father, Ralph, was diagnosed with the same disease. Stage IV pancreatic cancer. His father was 79 at the time and only lived three weeks after the day he was diagnosed.
Having lost her mother and father to pancreatic cancer, Debbie focused on what she could do to help PanCAN raise more awareness around the world. She kept going, kept creating, kept trying new designs.
When asked what motivates her to keep making the bracelets, Debbie said: “One day I was at the airport and saw a woman wearing one. It was inspiring. And everyone should know about this horrible disease. It’s my passion and I always want to keep more awareness focused on it.
While Debbie focused on the wristbands to support PanCAN’s work, her daughter Mikki decided she was going to help out with the good work too. For her bat mitzvah, she started creating purple notepads with a purple ribbon and the words “Fight for a cure.” Mikki, who was only 12 at the time, sold his creations at a local golf tournament, to friends and neighbors. She raised around $200 for PanCAN and she couldn’t have been more proud of the impact she has had.
Fifteen years have passed and Mikki is still fighting for a cure. As a member of the HBO Max marketing team, Mikki can now use her creativity to make an even bigger impact. When she started working on the marketing of the show “Made for Love”, she discovered a new scenario. One of the main characters, played by Ray Romano, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and decided to live his days in the best possible way, without treatment.
The storyline affected Mikki deeply, as she knew the pain of losing two grandparents to illness. She then pitched the idea to the team to incorporate pancreatic cancer awareness materials into their marketing efforts and received praise for the idea. Mikki used his talents to connect PanCAN with the HBO Max marketing team to create a beautiful partnership. Together, they developed an insert that was sent to influencers that explained pancreatic cancer, the character’s diagnosis, and how they could find out more.
It was a huge success, as their network of influencers shared more details about the disease and how their followers could learn more. HBO Max has decided to make a generous Don as well as to support the incredible work being done at PanCAN. It was a total victory for pancreatic cancer.
When asked what it was like to follow in her mother’s footsteps and help shine a light on such an important cause, she said, “It was truly amazing how my mother built this business of wristbands to support PanCAN. To see the connections and how something so positive can be formed from such a devastating experience is beautiful.
“Everyone at HBO was really moved by the personal connection. It didn’t take convincing at all. It was just a matter of orchestrating the conversation. They all worked so well together and were thrilled to bring the partnership. I am so honored to be a part of this and hope to find more ways for the two organizations to work together in the future.
Written by Jamie Foltz