By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Westborough – The national nonprofit organization, 15-40 Connection, is on a mission to bring awareness to early detection of cancer. Their help in bringing educational programs to schools and businesses, empowering patients, and changing the conversation with healthcare organizations, has saved many lives.
Helene Winn, education and outreach director at 15-40 Connection, hopes involve as many people as possible in the organization’s mission. She has a business and education background and is focused on partnership development. She is passionate, energetic and deeply committed.
Jim and Nancy Coghlin of Shrewsbury started 15-40 Connection eight years ago.
“Cancer is commonly one of the most misdiagnosed diseases and we also know that your best chance of survival is through early detection,” Winn said. “This can truly be lifesaving. We have a lot of folks who work with us as ambassadors who talk about early diagnosis and how that was really the difference in their ability to now be able to share their stories.”
The ambassadors come from local towns and cities nearby, but also come from areas across the country. There is an active online social media presence where many people can connect easily. Many people read something online that makes mention of 15-40 Connection and it resonates with them.
The “3 Steps Detect” program tries to teach people what a benchmark is for their health, to notice any changes, and what to do when a change is noted. It empowers the patient in ways to take control of their health.
“The storytelling is all around cancer, so talk about this early detection applies to cancer. We also talk about general health and wellness so these benchmarks can help to detect other illnesses as well, like a heart problem or something else that may be going on,” Winn said. “15-40 Connection’s mission is to improve survival rates by teaching people how to detect cancer early.”
The programming is implemented through 15-40 Connection partnering with schools via large group assemblies. There is also a lot of work done with health and physical education teachers when they are trained. These educators are provided with all of the necessary material electronically so that they can implement it in the classrooms. This enables the program to be sustainable.
In the fall, 15-40 Connection ran programs in the schools in West Boylston, Shrewsbury, Grafton, Worcester, Westborough, Natick and Framingham, as well as Algonquin Regional High School, St. Johns High School, Nashoba Valley Technical High School, Blackstone Valley Technical High School and Worcester Academy.
“Some of the students also have chosen to create a 15-40 Connection Club to help spread the organization’s mission about early detection,” said Winn.
All of the education programming is free of charge. This is the result of many generous donors who help to fund this mission. Anyone wishing to become involved can follow 15-40 Connection on its website www.15-40.org and its social media pages.
“As a result of a program that we did in a school, one of the teachers got an early diagnosis. We hear these stories all too frequently. We encourage everyone to pay attention to your body and any changes that occur. This really can be lifesaving,” said Winn.