As I'm writing this post, I remember a conversation I had several years ago with Jen Andruzzi, President and CEO. She shared the story behind and the purpose of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. Prior to that discussion, whenever I thought of a charity that helped individuals with cancer, my mind went to ones that focus on research or on helping with medical expenses. What I didn't think of was the other hardship - loss of wages which don't stop when cancer arrives, resulting in decreased resources for paying everyday expenses. But Jen did!
The Story Behind JAF!
In 2007, Jen and her husband, Joe Andruzzi, witnessed this need first-hand while Joe was in the hospital battling non-Hodgkin's Burkitt's lymphoma. Whether it was an individual battling cancer and having to take time off work for treatments and healing, or a family member having to use vacation days or take unpaid leave to be with their child, spouse, partner, or sibling during this time, Jen and Joe saw how cancer could wreak havoc on a family's financial situation and overall health. The idea of JAF began to form. Through an understanding "that crucial living expenses are not put on hold because of a diagnosis" and income may simultaneously decrease, they realized this was an area where much-needed assistance was lacking. And something they could make a difference in.
As they say on the home page of the JAF website: the Joe Andruzzi Foundation is "committed to providing help, hope, and a reason to smile, for New England cancer patients and their families by contributing financial support when it is needed most."
Take a minute and think about these statistics:
- "Pre-COVID-19, 49% of Americans expect(ed) to live paycheck to paycheck this year. 53% don't have an emergency fund that covers at least three months of expenses." (Forbes, 2/29/2020)
- "More than 1 in 4 workers do not set aside any savings each month." (CareerBuilder Survey, 2017)
- More than 50% "of minimum wage workers say they have to work more than one job to make ends meet." (CareerBuilder Survey, 2017)
- 40% of Americans cannot afford an unexpected expense over $400. (ABCNews)
- Up to 33% of cancer survivors say "they incurred significant debt while undergoing treatment." (Cure)
- "Individuals are 2.5 times more likely to file for bankruptcy following a cancer diagnosis." (Cure)
These are staggering statistics. Ones the make me take pause and really think about the struggles many cancer patients and their families face, including financial toxicity. Again, I had not heard of financial toxicity until I was at a Chamber event where Joe and Jen Andruzzi spoke, introducing this concept. CureToday.com explains it as "the psychology and emotional stress of accumulating so much debt while struggling to afford critical medical treatments, as well as cover basic needs is incredibly harmful - that's financial toxicity."
Now throw the COVID-19 pandemic into the mix, and hardships, stress, and worries are exacerbated. The assistance provided by JAF's program helps alleviate some of these stressors, allowing the patients and family to focus on treatments and healing.
JAF Makes a Difference!
The Joe Andruzzi Foundation helps battle financial toxicity by providing cancer patients in New England financial assistance to help cover everyday living costs that don't stop during cancer treatment - expenses such as rent/mortgage payments, utilities, food, and basic household expenses. This support "affords patients and their families the priceless gift of peace of mind in a time of uncertainty, and reduces financial barriers to treatment, allowing for uninterrupted access to care and better health outcomes." (JAF Mid-Year Impact Report 2020)
The Recipients and Support Provided by JAF - Just in 2020!
In just the first six months of 2020, JAF has provided the following (information from JAF Mid-Year Impact Report):
- Impacted 1,550+ individuals
- Distributed more than $408,000 to New England-based patients and family members
- 46% of direct financial assistance has helped patients and their families living on $25,000 or less; 34% of families living on $25,000-$49,000
- Needs covered through direct financial support: 52% housing; 25% utilities (heat/gas, electricity, water); 13% transportation; 2% gift cards ($9,500); 8% other
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so does cancer. More cancer diagnosis will be made, and more individuals will need the type of assistance JAF provides. In their Mid-Year Impact Report, JAF points out:
On top of this, JAF's fundraising efforts have had to change and be creative due to current restrictions. Your help is needed more than ever now!
You Can Make A Difference!
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that I had not thought about the "other financial" needs and struggles cancer patients and families face. Since my conversation with Jen Andruzzi, I have had the opportunity to volunteer for JAF, listening to recipients share their stories, and connecting friends and family with JAF for assistance as they have battled cancer. (Click here to read JAF Patient Stories.)
If you feel the tug to support Joe Andruzzi Foundation's cause, visit their website page, Ways to Give. Chances are, you will find opportunities to help make a cancer patient's fight a little easier. Any little bid can make a big difference!
Thank you, JAF, for all you do!