In 2014, my wife and our mother, Rhonda, was diagnosed with stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. She was fortunate that we had the resources to get her the necessary treatments, see the finest doctors, and be treated in the best facilities. While Rhonda lost her battle in November 2014, one of the gifts she left for us is Rhonda’s Kiss.
Supported by the Marc A. and Rhonda L. Stefanski Foundation, the goal for Rhonda’s Kiss is to provide the financial support to help maintain the dignity of the individual, and treat the whole person during a cancer diagnosis – not just their illness – providing them with a safety net to continue their treatment.
In partnership with Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and Florida, Rhonda’s Kiss provides financial support to decrease late-stage cancer diagnosis in urban communities. The Cleveland program is being administered through Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute and the Florida program through the Maroone Family Cancer Center, which will screen patients’ requests for non-medical needs, for anything ranging from help covering rent and utilities, to small-but-unexpected expenses related to their illness, such as wigs or transportation costs. The Clinic handles requests for funds and evaluates need through its community outreach program.
In July 2015, our first Rhonda’s Kiss benefit was held in Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. With nearly 500 people in attendance, the event featured musical entertainment from Rock Hall member Richie Furay (Poco/Buffalo Springfield) and raised $500,000.
Because of Rhonda’s Kiss funding, a patient receiving chemotherapy for her second battle with breast cancer will not be evicted from her home. In addition, a cancer patient who needs transportation for 12 weeks during treatment now has it. Wigs appropriate for African-American and elderly patients are being purchased to help maintain dignity, and a single mother, unable to work while undergoing breast reconstruction is being helped with utility and rent payments. These are just a few of the thousands of people we expect to help by raising money for patient needs beyond treatment.
In November, we hosted a second Rhonda’s Kiss benefit concert, this time in Los Angeles, California. With more than 400 people in attendance, our supporters were treated to a concert by super rock group The Hellcat Saints, featuring hit music makers, Billy Idol, Kesha, Dave Navarro, Juliette Lewis and Mark McGrath. Based on the success of that event, $50,000 was donated to City of Hope in Duarte, California, to treat both the physical and emotional needs of patients in financial need. The focus of City of Hope is to attend to the individual, not just the illness, matching the mission of Rhonda’s Kiss.
We appreciate the love and support we have received and with that assistance, we will continue to help those who need it the most during their cancer treatment.