What will be my legacy when I'm gone?
This is not a question we tend to ask ourselves in our thirties. Jen Pagani didn't have a choice. Shortly after having her second son, Jen was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer—an aggressive form of the disease that she fought with the same tenacity she'd brought to two Ironman Triathlons. Her fighting spirit gave her more than six years to spend with her two boys and her soulmate and husband Joe. It also gave us the Go Jen Go Foundation.
Friends and family of the Pagani's poured out their support through meal trains, play dates, and abundant kindness. Jen knew there were other people fighting the same battle, and that many of them probably didn't have the same outpouring of support that she did. And that's when Go Jen Go took root.
Jen and Joe knew all too well the burdens of fighting cancer. They also knew that life goes on and bills still have to be paid during a health crisis. The Go Jen Go Foundation helps to shoulder this burden by providing critical financial assistance to people battling breast cancer and to their families. Last year, more than 168 local breast cancer survivors and their families received $120,000 in assistance.
"We focus on the household bills like utilities, rent, groceries and transportation costs, all those expenses that keep coming after a cancer diagnosis," says Go Jen Go Executive Director Susan Sears. "We are trying to help people stay focused on their treatment rather than having to worry about their finances. Our grantees may be getting no pay or they may be getting short-term disability, but they still have to keep their heat on in the winter."
How You Can Help
When you make a financial gift to the Go Jen Go Foundation, you're helping a local breast cancer survivor make ends meet. For those of us who like to think globally and act locally, it does not get more local than this.
You can also donate your time and talent by volunteering for their two signature fundraising events: The Run Jen Run 5K and Festival on Saturday, March 7, 2020 and Cheers Jen Cheers in the fall of 2020 (date will be announced on GoJenGo.org, Facebook and Twitter.
Go Jen Go also needs extra hands and hearts for Operation Spread the Joy, a campaign sponsored by Charlotte Radiology that provides gifts to the families of breast cancer survivors over the holidays. Volunteer sign ups for Operation Spread the Joy will be available in November on GoJenGo.org, Facebook and Twitter.
The Legacy that Keeps on Giving
Jen Pagani passed away on February 2, 2014. She was 44 years old. No one should have to plan out their legacy in the prime of their lives. But because she did, families all over Charlotte have a financial lifeline to get them through their battle with breast cancer.
For those who knew Jen, her dynamic and giving spirit lives on with the Go Jen Go Foundation. "Jen had a smile that was so huge and welcoming," says Susan Sears. "She exuded this powerfully compassionate personality. I think she would be smiling from ear to ear knowing how many survivors she has helped."
Grace Kennedy is a Huntersville-based writer specializing in storytelling for nonprofits. Learn more at gracekennedy.net.