The Volunteer Advisory Council (VAC) is a group of Pancreatic Cancer Action Network volunteers who provide feedback and advice to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network with regard to the Community Engagement program, volunteer affiliate network and other initiatives of the organization.
Stefanie Abate serves as the Affiliate Chair for Rhode Island. She has been leading the R.I. Affiliate since she began volunteering in 2013. Her passion drives her dedication to fighting pancreatic cancer and honoring her mother, Barbara Paterra, who spent her life helping others as a registered nurse. Paterra lost her battle with the disease in 2000 after just six months.
Abate’s volunteer work has been a family affair. Her brother-in-law, Jim, also lost his mother, Mildred, to pancreatic cancer. Her sister, Jackie, is the Team Ambassador. Jim is their “Mother’s Hope” PurpleStride team co-captain. Her cousin, AJ, is the social media coordinator and her dad, John, has been the number one individual fundraiser for the last two years at PurpleStride RI. Her husband, Chris, and the rest of her family and friends support the cause by creating awareness and raising money for their PurpleStride team, which was a top-three team in 2016 and 2017.
Abate has spent her career as a product marketing professional. She worked in the consumer-packaged goods industry for most of her career. However, in 2013, Abate began working in the healthcare industry. She is currently employed as the manager of product marketing at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island, where she is responsible for managing the product portfolios offered in the Large and Small Employer Group commercial segments.
Abate is a graduate of Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts, where she obtained a BS in business administration with a concentration in marketing. She recently graduated from the Women Unlimited ImPower leadership program in Boston, Massachusetts.
Abate lives in North Kingstown, R.I., with her husband. She loves going out to dinner and trying new restaurants as well as traveling, especially to cities. She inherited her love of reading and shopping from her mom.
Carlos Ayala started volunteering at the Broward/Palm Beach Affiliate in 2013, after losing his mother to pancreatic cancer in September 2012, just 14 months after her diagnosis. When his mother was diagnosed, Ayala knew little about pancreatic cancer, but it didn’t take long for him to realize the rough challenges he and his mother would face during the journey. In November 2012, two months after he lost his mother, Ayala participated in his first PurpleStride, the walk to end pancreatic cancer. It was at the event that he realized he was not alone, and there were others in the community who had experienced the same loss.
Since 2013, Ayala has had the opportunity to participate in PanCAN’s annual Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. He considers this event to be a very important step in the ongoing fight against pancreatic cancer.
Ayala has been involved in various roles within the affiliate, ultimately taking the Donor and Corporate Ambassador (DCA) position in 2014. Using his personal and professional connections, he was able to work and secure sponsors for their affiliate. His passion for the cause and his strong relationships with the sponsors have made it possible to secure them year after year.
Ayala was honored to be awarded the DCA of the Year in 2017. Working together with other volunteers within their affiliate, he helps plan the affiliate’s PurpleStride and other events within their community. Ayala considers it very important for he and the affiliate to continue educating and raising awareness about pancreatic cancer all year. He hopes to continue the fight against pancreatic cancer and someday have an event in Puerto Rico where he grew up.
Ayala studied marketing at Inter American University of Puerto Rico. He worked for a variety of companies in South Florida, where he gained experience and knowledge of the region’s business market. Ayala enjoys spending time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking and learning from different cultures.
Andrea Bauer-Kuczma began volunteering with the Pittsburgh Affiliate in early 2008 after losing her mother to pancreatic cancer in 2006 and relocating to the city from northwestern Pa. She served as the Media Relations Chair from 2008 to 2013 and then transitioned into her current role as the Affiliate Chair. Bauer-Kuczma was recognized for her efforts as Media Relations Chair of the Year in 2013 and Affiliate Chair of the Year in 2015.
From a young age, her parents taught her the value of volunteering – both with their church and the local volunteer fire department. Their emphasis on community involvement eventually led her to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network when she was looking to channel her anger and frustration about her mother’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Friends and family have come to know her as a voice for pancreatic cancer advocacy and awareness, and they were not surprised she chose to get married in November during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Purple was the primary wedding color.
Bauer-Kuczma has a BA in accounting from Mercyhurst University and an MBA in finance from the University of Akron. She currently works as a senior credit analyst for Sapa Extrusion and has worked in various financial roles for more than 10 years. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, Kevin, and their two rescue dogs, Deacon and Greta. Outside of work and volunteering, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends and supporting Pittsburgh’s trifecta of sports teams – the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates.
Danielle Gentry-Barth began volunteering with the Cincinnati Affiliate in 2009, a few months after losing her stepdad to a short six-week battle with pancreatic cancer. Danielle served in a core role position from 2009 to 2011 and then transitioned into her current role as Affiliate Chair. In 2014, her stepmom was tragically diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and passed eight weeks later. Gentry Barth’s mission is to change the course of this disease so that anyone diagnosed with pancreatic cancer has a fighting chance.
Gentry-Barth is a proud member of the Cincinnati Affiliate of volunteers that established the city’s first PurpleStride, PurpleLight and Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Night at Great American Ball Park. In 2011, the Cincinnati Affiliate received the Affiliate of the Year Medium Market Award and has raised over $1 million to date.
Gentry-Barth has spent her career working in the nonprofit sector. Currently, she is the vice president of development and marketing at Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati, an organization that empowers people with disabilities and disadvantages to find employment and live a full life.
She is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, where she earned both a BA and MA. She has been involved in many professional associations, including the Association of Fundraising Professionals, where she served as Greater Cincinnati Chapter president in 2012.
She loves nothing more than being the mom of three amazing daughters, ages 18, 12 and 8, and mentoring a young girl, age 14. She describes all of them “as cooler than she will ever be!”
Barb Geraghty is the PurpleStride Chair for the Tidewater Affiliate. Geraghty lost her dad to pancreatic cancer in 2010, and began volunteering with the Tidewater Affiliate in 2012. With prior experience in volunteering and chairing other nonprofit 5K events, she was a natural to step into the role of PurpleStride Chair and has chaired four PurpleStride events including the inaugural one in which Tidewater increased its fundraising goal three times and was selected as the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Small Market Affiliate of the Year in 2014.
Geraghty retired from the Navy in 2007, after 31 years, and has become a professional volunteer with health-related nonprofits and is a board member of a local credit union. Originally from Minnesota, she graduated from the Naval Academy in the first class to admit women. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, recently graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School and Old Dominion University with a Masters in Public Health (Health Promotion and Education) and is currently the project coordinator for a grant to prevent diabetes.
Tom Gill became involved with the Charlotte, NC Affiliate in 2012 when his brother, Ed, was near the end of his battle with pancreatic cancer. Gill’s wife and children volunteered alongside him at PurpleStride Charlotte in September of that year, and his brother passed shortly after in November.
In January of 2013, a few of the Charlotte core role volunteers reached out to him and asked if he would consider being the Affiliate Chair, and by February he was in his new role. Gill loves his team of volunteers at the Charlotte Affiliate. They all have other work and personal obligations, but they each maintain their commitment to fight the fight. He takes every opportunity to speak with people who are battling pancreatic cancer and the loved ones of those who have lost the battle. He says it is a very powerful experience each time.
Gill is inspired by the passion of others, it helps drive him to continue the fight. He has been very successful in his volunteer role, but he feels his biggest contribution is bringing a sense of humor to those facing pancreatic cancer. Gill knows that although the work that he and his fellow volunteers perform is serious, he knows the value of keeping people engaged and finding moments of joy. With his leadership, the affiliate is growing, and its members feel empowered to make a difference.
Gill works as a Partner in a recruiting firm in Charlotte. He is an avid tennis player and he enjoys spending time with his two teenage daughters. Gill and his wife of 26 years enjoy their quiet time together and going on date nights to the movies.
Kathy Grayson decided to volunteer and become her father’s voice after he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2005. She joined the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to help others affected by this disease and to make a difference by finding answers to so many unresolved questions.
Grayson became the Affiliate Chair for the Kansas City Affiliate in 2008. She’s proud of the accomplishments of her affiliate, including becoming Medium Market Affiliate of the Year in 2014 and surpassing $1 million in fundraising in the Kansas City area.
Grayson is a newlywed and enjoys spending time with her husband and cheering on her stepchildren. She works as a medical assistant for a busy orthopedic office, and she is also an independent consultant for Rodan+Fields. In her spare time, she enjoys cheering on the Kansas Jayhawks, traveling and catching up with friends and family.
Britt Hefelfinger joined the New York City Affiliate after losing her father to pancreatic cancer in January 2012, just weeks after her college graduation. She planned PurpleLight and PurpleStride events for two years, and in 2014 she led PurpleStride New York City to a $620,000 fundraising record. Next, she took on the inaugural role of Donor and Corporate Ambassador for the affiliate and has since grown the level of healthcare and pharmaceutical sponsorships as well as helped foster the year-round stewardship of top team captains for PurpleStride. She received the national award for Donor & Corporate Ambassador of the Year in 2016.
Hefelfinger is a native of Bucks County, Pa., and received a BFA in photography from Penn State University. As a distance runner, she can often be found with her sister participating in half marathons and PurpleStride events along the East Coast in their “I Bleed Purple” T-shirts. Britt also works as an event planner and fundraiser in New York.
Michelle Hernandez has volunteered with the San Antonio Affiliate since 2013. Her father lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 1995 at the age of 40 when Michelle was 13 years old.
Hernandez has always been active in many organizations, but in 2013, she sought an organization that could help those that had lost loved ones to pancreatic cancer. She found PanCAN and realized not many people knew about this particular cancer, or how to get help. Hernandez knew she had to jump in and make a difference.
Her volunteer journey began as the San Antonio Volunteer Chair. Hernandez has enjoyed meeting amazing people, hearing their stories, and encouraging others to get involved to spread the “Purple Passion.”
She was part of the team that earned the 2016 Region 2 Affiliate of the Year Award, and in 2017, she transitioned into her current role as the San Antonio Affiliate Chair. She also volunteered at the Boston PurpleStride and attended Advocacy Day in 2016 and 2017.
Hernandez has a BA in Business Management from Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, and works in human resources for a manufacturing and engineering firm. She resides in Schertz, Texas, and loves to travel as much as possible.
Andrew Miller became involved with the Portland Affiliate in 2014 after his coworker, Cheryl Norman, passed away of pancreatic cancer in November 2013. Miller stepped up to take on the roles of the PurpleLight Chair (Spring 2016) and the PurpleStride Team Ambassador (2015-present). He has attended Advocacy Day with the Washington state delegation for the last two years and is the 2016 recipient of PurpleLight Chair of the Year award.
Miller grew up in north central Ohio and graduated from the University of Akron. He is an engineering manager at Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) in Portland, Ore. He is also proud of his volunteer efforts through DTNA with Start Making a Reader Today (SMART), a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization devoted to children’s literacy.
Miller and his wife of 19 years, Martha, enjoy doing outdoor activities together, especially visiting the state and national parks near Portland. They also love to travel to Seattle to attend PurpleStride Puget Sound.
Rebecca Shanahan formed the Las Vegas Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) in 2011, after losing both her girlfriend and her father to pancreatic cancer, just a few months apart. Acting as Affiliate Chair, she has worked alongside an incredibly dedicated team to generate awareness and funding for pancreatic cancer research among a diverse community of many worthy causes. Facing these challenges has intensified her passion and leadership toward continued growth of the affiliate year after year.
Her involvement with PanCAN has not only provided her with an empowering extended family, it has expanded her skillsets professionally. Advocating for federal funding in Washington D.C., promoting PanCAN’s mission through public speaking and media relations, and engaging with patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals has helped her find success as Deputy Director of a Nevada-based nonprofit, driving innovative water technologies for the state.
Between juggling her work and volunteer commitments, Shanahan is first and foremost a wife and mother of two young daughters. She hopes to lead by example in raising her two girls to be kind, engaged and giving. They participate regularly in her volunteer activities and are some of the youngest advocates on Capitol Hill. She hopes the experiences they are exposed to through her leadership opportunities set the course for their successes in life.
Aimee Sherman lost her dad to pancreatic cancer in 2007, just six short months after he was diagnosed. She was told it was a rare disease, but shortly after her dad’s passing, two of her friends were also diagnosed. That’s when her sister introduced her to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
Inspired by her first Advocacy Day in 2012, Sherman became the New Hampshire Community Representative in 2013 and recently transitioned into the Community Advocate role to focus more exclusively on advocacy. As Community Advocate for New Hampshire, Sherman develops relationships with her members of Congress and their staff to make pancreatic cancer a priority.
Sherman has always had a passion for helping people in the healthcare field. Receiving her BS in Physical Therapy from Quinnipiac College in Connecticut, she has practiced Physical Therapy for nearly 20 years. She resides in Newbury, N.H., with her husband, two young children and two Labrador retrievers. She has made volunteering her passion and won’t stop until patient outcomes are improved significantly.
Matt Wilson has been a pancreatic cancer survivor since 2012. He joined the Delaware Affiliate on his one-year survivor anniversary to honor his family, friends and co-workers who supported him through all his tests, surgery and months of recovery.
Wilson hit the ground running by volunteering in a variety of roles with the affiliate’s first PurpleStride, the walk to end pancreatic cancer. In 2013, he was asked to be the State Leader at Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., and was then asked to step into the role of Advocacy Chair.
In 2014, Wilson was awarded the Randy Pausch award. The award recognizes a core role volunteer who has contributed outstanding service that goes above and beyond what is expected to advance the mission of PanCAN, who upholds volunteer core values, and who is an inspirational leader and a role model in the pancreatic cancer community. The award is also given to someone who embodies the late Dr. Pausch’s optimism, courage and enthusiasm for life.
In 2016, Wilson was invited to become the Delaware Affiliate Chair. He resides in Wilmington, Del., where he is an Assistant Professor and Department Chair at Wilmington University. Wilson will graduate with a Doctorate of Education and concentration in Higher Education Leadership in May 2018.
Michele Wood started volunteering with the Boston Affiliate in 2010. She lost her dad to pancreatic cancer in 2007, and began looking for ways to change the disease’s low survival rate and lack of awareness. When she received an email asking for volunteers to come discuss the possibility of starting a Boston Affiliate, she knew it was meant to be.
It was only a matter of weeks before she signed on as the affiliate’s Media Relations Chair. She earned the Media Relations Chair of the Year Award in 2013, and the affiliate went on to win the Affiliate of the Year Award in 2015.
Wood has helped plan and execute PurpleLight, PurpleStride and other affiliate activities, and has participated in Advocacy Day. Her motivation to continue volunteering comes from the loneliness she felt when her dad was going through his diagnosis. She does not want others impacted by pancreatic cancer to feel the same way, and sees her volunteering as a way to be there for them.
Wood graduated from Franklin Pierce University with a BA in Accounting, and works full-time for a global medical company in its financial compliance department. She enjoys spending time with her two sons and husband, and recently discovered a love of running. She is working toward the goal of completing a half-marathon.