Minette Grosso McKenna died in 2003 after a long battle against breast cancer but, perhaps more importantly, a long career of caring for those in need. One year after her death, McKenna’s family and friends created a foundation that honors both sides of her life. This April 26, the Minette’s Angels Foundation will mark 15 years of caring for breast cancer patients, survivors and their families with a gala dinner.
Things started out quite simply, recalls Ken McKenna, Minette’s widower. “We gave out food gift cards, meals, transportation, gas cards, restaurants, movie tickets,” he says, “all those basic things that people needed to feel a little bit better, or that the perhaps could no longer afford because the financial demands of going through treatment had put a strain on their finances.”
Then there came the scholarships: one for a high school student from Verona and another at Minette’s alma mater, Seton Hall University’s College of Nursing. One scholarship recipient is graduating nursing school this year and has already passed her boards. The pink socks, laces and ribbons that you see on Verona High School athletes every October? That’s the work of Minette’s Angels, too, work that echoes back from VHS in the form of team fundraisers for the Minette’s Angels Foundation.
Then there are the things that you might only have seen if you, or someone in your family, has been treated for breast cancer in our area. The Foundation has given money to Saint Barnabas Medical Center’s Cancer Center to buy wheelchairs, as well as to its Comfort Project 360 to make the waiting rooms nicer, and it has given to Saint Barnabas’ Lymphedema Program to provide compression garments, to alleviate swelling that can happen when lymph nodes are removed. “Most recently, we bought robes for the Breast Center,” says McKenna. “White terrycloth spa robes that you would want at home, to give women comfort as they are going through treatment.”
And all along the way, the Foundation has also drawn attention to those who have supported its mission, who have raised awareness, and who have advanced breast cancer treatments. This year’s Celebration of Angels gala, which will be held on Thursday, April 26, at The Park Savoy in Florham Park, will honor the Reverend Michael A. Hanly, Myriad Genetic Laboratories and Dr. and Mrs. Michael Scoppetuolo.
Father Mike, as he is better known, was the pastor of Our Lady of the Lake in Verona for more than two decades. Myriad, a personalized medicine company based in Salt Lake City, has sponsored speakers at the Foundation’s fundraising teas who talked about breast health and the role that genetics plays in breast cancers. Dr. Scoppetuolo is the chief medical officer of Saint Barnabas’ Cancer Center, and his wife Rosemary, who began her career as an oncology nurse at Clara Maass Medical Center before serving as the director of women’s services there, helped to establish the Breast Center at Saint Barnabas.
“One of the things that I’m proudest of is that while we started out as a Verona-based organization, over the years, we’ve expanded,” McKenna says. “That’s what I get the most excited about. The more that we can continue to help people, the better.”
If you would like an invitation to the gala, email the Foundation at [email protected]