You are a mom, a wife, and hard-working full time professional. Your life is beautiful, you are successful. Everyday stress is there, but manageable. Then, you get diagnosed with cancer.
What do you do?
In her case, Patty Mellon chose to become a warrior, build an army, and go to battle.
When the idea of the Community Spotlight Project at Phil Richard Insurance came about, one of the first names to come up was Patty Mellon, an adored marketing representative for Plymouth Rock, and founder of Tough Warrior Princess, a support organization for women affected by cancer. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, and now a survivor–Patty, with the help of other TWPs, founded a community who wanted to do more in addition to beating cancer. So despite hectic schedules, together since 2009, they’ve been building an all-hands on deck army of volunteers to raise money for research and provide support for local women affected by cancer.
A few years back, my parents, Patti and Phil, had the pleasure of joining Patty and TWP for the 3-day, 60 mile walk to raise money for Breast Cancer research. After the 3-day trek, my sisters and I greeted our parents in Framingham where the walk ended. Covered in sweat, heels sore from blisters and faces from laughing, our parents couldn’t have been happier at that moment–their energy was infectious. Not even having walked ourselves, we left the event nothing short of naturally high; the camaraderie we felt in unifying for a cause left us wanting to give back more.
We all know the struggle of wanting to do good, but not having enough resources to do it well. Maybe you don’t have time, or maybe you don’t have the money, but that doesn’t change the fact that deep down inside, the desire to help others persists.
TWP is an organization growing through this thought process. Recognizing everyone can give differently, they are consistently adding members who contribute as much or as little as they can afford, making it as simple as liking the page on Facebook to become a member.
So Patty, how did TWP get started? How do these women find the time to devote to work, their families, and growing this organization?
“Back in 2009, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As I was finishing up treatment, my girlfriend had just gone through it as well. We started doing the Susan G. Komen walk with a bunch of people. New balance came out and did a video on us. There was a team of 40 people, and we raised a ton of money. It ended up that there were so many of us raising money in the same community with the same connections, someone would come up to me and say: ‘I want to donate and I want to donate to like 10 of you, how do I do that?’ With the Komen website, you couldn’t, so we started the nonprofit Tough Warrior Princess because that was our team name for the Komen walk. l started it with the thought that it would be helpful when they do a big fundraiser: give money to each of the walkers to donate, help them fundraise, etc. This way, people can donate to the nonprofit and then they can donate to Komen through us.”
“However, the minute we started TWP we were like ‘…where do we really want our money to go?’ And that whole process started. I think from since the day we officially started TWP, we haven’t used it to disperse funds to Komen because we thought, ‘wait a minute–don’t we want to help local women and really make an impact in our community?’
I believe things happen for a reason and everything that’s happened with TWP is not because I tried to make this happen, or thought ‘let’s do this, let’s do that.’ Everything has just sort of fallen into place and continues to fall into place.
It all kind of started with a video from New Balance. They gave us that base that allowed us to raise the big dollars and start a nonprofit and it has just blown up from there. First as TWP, we were a breast cancer support group. We put out a grant proposal to the Institution of Savings at Newburyport and said we want to create a Survivor Basket for women who are newly diagnosed. All items they may need going throughout treatment: things that will make them happy, let them know there’s a group of women–a lot of them survivors–that care about them and can help them through the process. Well, we got the grants, started making survivor baskets, and it’s grown from there.”
Where are you now?
“Over the years it’s still just kind of grown, but our main tenant is that we no longer support just women with breast cancer… because the first woman who came to us that said, ‘I have ovarian cancer,’ we thought ‘but uh, our mission statement says this… can we help her?’ So, we amended our statement to: we help women affected by cancer, and what woman is more affected than one whose child has cancer, or whose husband has cancer?”
“We’re still very involved in raising money. We didn’t want to pick one organization or limit ourselves, and we don’t want it to be the majority of our funds, but of course we are working towards research to find a cure so what we do is kind of two-pronged: some of our proceeds go to the Jimmy Fund Walk every year. One of our board members is a breast cancer survivor and then lost her daughter to cancer at age 9, so there’s about 40 of us that do the jimmy fund walk every year. The other thing you can do is you can apply for funds to fundraise through TWP, so TWP will donate to your event–anything that supports cancer research.
How have you continued to grow and market Tough Warrior Princess despite busy schedules?
“Our main thing is it’s all word of mouth as most of us live in Amesbury. Our mission started with local but then we scratched that out because well… what’s local? If someone gets in touch with us and says ‘I know someone that’s been diagnosed with cancer or had a recurrence’, we’ll say ‘we’ll get you a survivor basket as long as you can get it to them or we can try to.’ We try not to mail the baskets because they’re big. It’s full of Inspirational books, gas cards, blankets, socks lotions, radiation creams, etc.”
Per Patty, Sometimes it’s not the right moment, “someone’s going through the worst time in their life with thoughts like, ‘am I going to survive? What’s going to happen to my family, my kids?’ We want to give it to them at the right time—we’ll leave it up to the person presenting the basket because sometimes—it isn’t the right time. We leave an intake form in the basket and ask to send back so we can track in case we get audited, but there’s also a section that says, ‘what other services do you need?’ We can have meals delivered, house cleaning, etc. Luckily, most people don’t need that because if they all did, we’re sunk, but we have organized different meal campaigns for people. For example, with one of our members, we drove her to Boston for treatments every single day and had a meal on her table every night.
That’s just it. Our main mission is, ‘how can we help?’”
What’s the Ultimate Goal?
“The goal is to keep the momentum going. It’s about creating connections and keeping the word going–my mission is to create an army of Princesses who are volunteers. Loose volunteers so that when we post on our Facebook pages, someone needs a meal or someone needs a ride—one of the 2,000 people on Facebook volunteers can see that and be willing to help us.”
So, How Can You Help?
It starts with helping to spread awareness. Talk about Tough Warrior Princesses, tell your family, tell your friends. Like TWP’s Facebook page, watch the new balance video on the website.
Patty adds, “we’re always looking for donations to our survivor baskets. I’m always posting on Facebook. This week we may ask for socks, gas cards, or coffee or tea. We keep getting donations—some of the best ones are when massage parlors will donate massage, reiki, handmade soaps—we’ve really received just amazing stuff.”
As one of the two drop-off sites listed on their website, Phil Richard Insurance in Danvers, MA is happy to answer any questions you may have regarding donations. You can throw an event to benefit TWP, raise money in your office or place of business and see if your company will match it, or offer to provide a meal or transportation to someone in need. The goal is to make it as easy for you to contribute as you can—if you’re buying something online, purchase it through Amazon Smile and some of the proceeds will go towards TWP. Purchase a scarf, necklace, or one of their chic “Bravelets” for holiday gifts this year, and some of the proceeds will go to TWP.
For more information on the Survivor Baskets, or to watch the New Balance video, visit their tab on our website:
Connect with them on social media: