By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Shrewsbury – When Scott Zenaro was diagnosed at age 30 with a rare form of cancer, end stage Ewing’s sarcoma, his prognosis was quite grim. His doctors recommended he try to participate in a clinical trial in California run by the Sarcoma Oncology Center. Thanks to the financial support of the Lazarex Cancer Foundation, he was admitted to that program and lived another 2-1/2 years until succumbing to complications from the cancer Feb. 24, 2010.
Since that time, his parents, Carol and Ron, have worked tirelessly to raise funds – an amazing total of $100,000 – for the foundation. It is their way, they said, to not only honor his legacy and life but as a way to thank Lazarex for their generosity. In doing so, they also hope to help other families who are facing the same dire health scenarios.
In September the Zenaros were honored by Lazarex at its annual gala with the “Circle of Life Award.”
Ron noted that the uniqueness of Lazarex is that “every cent of donated funds goes to patients.”
It is a model that the Zenaros, too, have followed. Nearly half of the monies the couple has raised have been from the sale of bracelets that Carol makes by hand and sells for $20 each. (Ron purchases the materials – all profits go to Lazarex.) Last fall the couple decided to raffle off Scott’s custom-built motorcycle as well to raise additional funds.
Although Carol does not have a website nor sells the bracelets in traditional venues, she is often her own best model and marketing representative by simply by wearing the bracelets herself.
“People notice them and ask me about them. Then they ask me how they can buy one,” she said. “Sometimes they want the very one I am wearing. One woman even bought one to put in a hostess basket.”
So far as she has sold $56,000 worth of bracelets; her goal, she said, is to sell $60,000.
“I have to thank the public,” she added. “I make [the bracelets] but without people buying them, I’d have nothing. I am really thankful to everyone who has bought one.”
Lazarex was founded by Dana Dornsife, who, along with her husband Dave, covers all overhead expenses. Dana first became involved in cancer patient advocacy when her brother-in-law, Mike Miller, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003. The family searched for options to help extend his life and were able to find a clinical trial treatment that allowed Miller to live long enough to allow his youngest daughter to have real memories of him.
Since that time, the couple has been passionate advocates for other families, of whom there is no shortage, Dornsife said.
“To our knowledge, we are the only organization that offers this type of support,” she said. “Right now we support over 500 patients financially and have 300 patients in clinical trials.”
Half of the foundation’s funding is from grants with the other half from donations. That is why support from donors such as the Zenaros is critical, she said.
“Scott was very special – we all loved him. His joy of life was huge,” she said. “He was an amazing ambassador for us and now Carol, Ron and their family have been, too. I just can’t even say enough about them and how wonderful they are.”
Just recently Lazarex has established a relationship with Mass. General Hospital in Boston. The new program will strive to recruit patients, in particular minorities, for clinical trials.
“This is a three-year program that will be taking specific steps to help reduce barriers and will help patients receive necessary funding,” Dornsife said.
For their part, the Zenaros are committed to making and selling bracelets “forever” in support of Lazarex.
“It’s therapy,” Carol said. “And I know Scott is smiling down at us and is very proud.”
To purchase a bracelet, contact Carol at 508-845-1538 or Ron at 508-981-5050 or email [email protected].
For more information on Lazarex visit www.lazarex.org.