Editor’s note: For each of us involved in the cause, it started with someone — the reason we were compelled to get involved with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) and change the story of pancreatic cancer. Jann Skelton lost her husband, David, to pancreatic cancer in 2013. She and their children, Hannah, 16, and William, 13, are ardent volunteers and advocates. The three also began “David’s Daredevils” – currently the top fundraising team at PurpleStride New York City 2018. The team is more than halfway to its goal of $50,000.
Hannah and William, tell us about your “someone.”
Hannah: Our “someone” is our dad. He died in 2013 – he fought nine months and through it all had a positive outlook. But in the end, there just weren’t enough treatments available for him. I decided no one else should have to go through that and have been very involved with PanCAN ever since.
William: I was 7 when he was diagnosed. I’ll always remember him in the stands at my soccer games, watching me play. I have a picture that I keep in my room of him doing just that. I’m very lucky to have had him as a dad.
You’ll be at PurpleStride New York City on April 14 for the sixth year with your team, “David’s Daredevils” – love the name!
Jann: Its origin is interesting. I had been very involved with the Avon walk with my friend who had breast cancer. Our team was “Angela’s Angels.” When David was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, we found PurpleStride New York, and my friend with breast cancer named our PurpleStride team, “David’s Daredevils.” We loved the alliteration of it. Now it’s about so much more than that.
Hannah: All these years later, I think our team name represents our perseverance.
How does PurpleStride inspire you?
Jann: At first it represented a place for the kids to remember their dad and for friends and family to join us. I was worried that interest would wane over time, but we have found the opposite to be true – people are even more supportive, and more people are joining our team whose own families have dealt with pancreatic cancer. We have a pancreatic cancer survivor on our team, as well. After the walk, we come to our house and have a big barbecue with friends and family, and it’s a beautiful remembrance of David.
Hannah: It’s a happy, positive environment and having everyone there for a common goal – to cure pancreatic cancer – is inspiring. It’s one of William’s and my favorite times of the year.
Hannah and William, why should young people embrace the pancreatic cancer cause?
Hannah: It’s a good leadership opportunity, but it can also give kids hope and it helps us support each other. After my dad died, I was paired up with a girl at the Avon walk whose mom had passed away, and it gave me hope that everything was going to be OK. I now have a friend whose dad is a pancreatic cancer survivor, and I want to be that person they can look up to, just like I had. I also reach out to kids at school who have been through a similar situation and leave the door open for them to talk to me if they would like. So it’s good for us all to support each other.
William: I’ve helped get my school involved in fundraising for PanCAN, and the students seem to enjoy it. The principal put me in our “Student Spotlight” for a month. I’ve done different things to raise money – my duct tape fundraiser where kids bought pieces of tape that were used to tape me to a wall – that raised about $1,000. I also had a bake sale and asked my friends to help. Kids like to be part of things like this.
Jann: Seeing a community of children making a difference is so powerful. When the kids lost their dad, they felt like they were the only ones who had been through that. We went to our first Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day and seeing all the kids there participating was life-changing for them. Through PanCAN we have met an amazing community…as much as pancreatic cancer has taken from us, we have gained so much.
“David’s Daredevils” is in the lead for team fundraising. What has been most successful for you?
Jann: Often it’s simply asking friends and family to make a donation. As the kids mentioned, they’ve done projects at school. We’ve worked with local restaurants on a restaurant night where they give back a portion of proceeds. We have leveraged our connections for matching donations, as well. And Facebook is fantastic for getting the word out.
Hannah and William, how would your dad feel about your involvement in this cause?
Hannah: He would be very proud. When he was alive, everyone was so supportive and he was overwhelmed with all the love. He was so humble, so if he could hear what he meant to people, it would send him over the moon. He was not able to go to PurpleStride the first year we participated, but he was happy that we could go. He was like, “Wow, this is a great thing!”
William: My dad meant everything to me. I know he would be glad we’re doing something about this disease, and he would be happy to know the survival rate has gone up.
What word comes to mind when you think of him?
All: Definitely “love.” And “caring.”