Five original board members carry on their friend’s legacy to find a cure for breast cancer 

Where it began …

Five original board members carry on their friend’s legacy to find a cure for breast cancer 

 By KATHLEEN EDGECOMB

 

When Norma Logan was fighting for her life against breast cancer in 2005, she rounded up a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, a pharmaceutical research executive and a friend who also happened to be a former drill sergeant in the Connecticut National Guard.

There were others, but those five individuals, who promised Logan they would help establish an organization that would dedicate 100 percent of fundraising donations to breast cancer research, are still at the core of the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation, serving on the board of directors and actively participating in fundraising efforts.

Logan lost her battle with breast cancer in 2006, but those she recruited to help create her vision are still inspired by her passion and commitment to make a difference for those battling breast cancer.

Howard Brensilver, Steve Sheehan, Stacey Gualtieri, John LaMattina and Sandy Maniscalco are original board members and continue volunteering their expertise as needed to keep the grassroots foundation up and running. They have helped raise more than $5.5 million which has been awarded to 55 breast cancer doctors, researchers and clinicians – most just starting out in their careers.

Back in 2006, as she faced her own battle with breast cancer, Logan pitched her idea in a quickly called meeting in her living room in New London. Everyone she gathered pledged to help.

Gualtieri, TBBCF treasurer, said after Logan finished speaking that day, her husband whispered, “Someone should pass a hat around. People would empty their bank accounts for her.”

Gualtieri, a certified public accountant, said Logan and her husband were her tax clients, when Logan asked for advice on setting up a non-profit. When asked how she was feeling, Logan responded “It may be too late for me Stacey, but I want to do something so it won’t be too late for other women,” Gualtieri recalled. She offered to do the paperwork pro bono and hoped that she could also be on the board. When they asked her to be treasurer she did not hesitate.

“She had that magic,” Gualtieri said. “It still fuels me today.”

In addition to serving as treasurer, Gualtieri and her family have walked in marathons, manned pit stops and put out signs to support other walkers. Gualtieri’s daughter, Gabby, is a grants administrator for the scientific advisory board, and Stacey’s firm Doherty Beals & Banks provides in-kind business services including office space. 

LaMattina, president of Global Research and Development at Pfizer at the time, did not hesitate to help. With his leadership skills at Pfizer and his experience volunteering with many nonprofits in the area, he became a strong advocate for TBBCF, serving as board president several times and volunteering during the annual walking marathon. He also serves on the Scientific 

Advisory Board which reviews applications for TBBCF annual research grants. He and his wife, Mary are Platinum Sponsors.

“Besides,” he said recently.  “Norma never took no for an answer.”

Howie Brensilver, a physician, met Norma through his wife, Marcie, who had walked in a three-day marathon in Boston to support Norma and to raise money for breast cancer. He said Norma “blew me away” when he first met her. 

“She had a vision to start the foundation and she knew she would not be there to see it to its fruition,” he said. “Marcie and I were thrilled to be invited to her home for our first meeting. My expertise was being a physician and, more importantly, being Marcie’s husband.

Brensilver served as president and vice president of the board and was a member of the scientific advisory board. He’s also walked in the annual marathon and has volunteered in other ways.

Steve Sheehan had been a close friend of Tim Brodeur, both raising children around the same age. Tim worked with Norma at Pfizer. Tim’s wife Terri had recently died from breast cancer and Tim introduced Steve to Norma.

“Right from the start it was obviously apparent that Norma was that unique individual who would not just sit back when something needed to be done, nor fail to chip in when help was needed,” said Sheehan, an attorney.

Logan did not want any attention for herself he said, adding “in that same spirit, graciously and kindly asked Tim if he would consider allowing the cancer foundation she planned to start, to be named in honor of Tim’s wife Terri.”

“I think this gesture really helped Tim at this difficult time and was a wonderful way to honor Terri and her life,” Sheehan said. In addition to serving on the board, he volunteers his time for all the legal needs of the foundation and each year coordinates a team of cyclists that guides and supports all the walkers in the annual marathon. 

Maniscalco has perhaps been the biggest supporter of TBBCF since the beginning. She and Logan were good friends and co-workers at Pfizer and when Logan asked her to help set up her new foundation, Maniscalco did not hesitate.

In 2004, Logan signed up to walk in a three-day, 60-mile walk in Boston to raise money for breast cancer. Her nine-member team called “Bust a Move” was organized by Norma’s past work colleagues in Seattle. Walkers included three members from Seattle and six members from Connecticut. They raised more than $80,000.

When Logan’s cancer returned in 2005, Maniscalco, who had retired from Pfizer in 2004, stepped in as Norma to lead the group. Maniscalco, the former drill sergeant, served as her friend’s “chief of staff” helping to organize 30 walkers and 7 volunteers. They raised $130,000.

When Logan discovered a good portion of the $210,000 raised in 2004 and 2005 went to overhead costs and not toward breast cancer research, she decided to organize her own foundation.

“I became her uber missionary,” Maniscalco said.

She was the first board vice president and over the years has been board president, executive director, development and outreach directors, website content manager and editor of the TBBCF newsletter. She also has walked the marathon, or parts of it, every year.

Maniscalco has diligently and meticulously worked tirelessly to help hold the organization together, keeping focused on the main objective – to give researchers money to find a cure for breast cancer. She has amassed a large following of volunteers who are as dedicated to her as they are to the cause. They agree – when Sandy asks you to do something, you do it.

The original five board members all have ideas on the future of the foundation – maybe merge with other healthcare entities to pool resources; continue to recruit like-minded individuals to carry on the mission; and expand the walk both in person and virtually to bring in more money 

But what they all agree on is that they will continue to carry out Norma Logan’s wishes to find a cure for breast cancer.

“As Nick Saccomano said to Norma when we accepted her offer to head up the scientific advisory board, ‘After we cure breast cancer, what will we go after next?’ LaMattina recalled. “I’m looking forward to the ‘next.”

“It’s amazing that TBBCF has gotten this far,” said Brensilver. “It has been very clear that its mission is to find a cure for breast cancer by providing research grants. My hope is that we get put out of business and we can maintain the lifelong friends we have become.”

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