AUSTIN, Texas – April 14, 2015 – When Jeri Mulder was just 20 years old, she went through an experience with cancer that she hoped nobody would ever have to face again. 28 years later, she and her husband Jeff will donate $1 million to the Livestrong Foundation through their family’s Shine Foundation to ensure that cancer patients and survivors get the support and access to care she didn’t have.
In 1988, as mother of two and a wife in an unstable relationship, Jeri had no time to worry about the lump forming in her neck. She was back and forth between her home and a Ft. Worth women’s shelter for months as a tumor silently, unknown to her, grew in her thyroid. When she was finally able to move to Michigan, her grandmother grew concerned and urged her to get checked.
With few resources and no insurance, Jeri didn’t have the means to see an oncologist so she found a job with insurance benefits, but had to wait through the three-month eligibility period – the longest days of her life. During the three months that followed, Jeri spent sleepless nights wondering if it was cancer, whether it was spreading, and what would happen to her children if she died.
When the waiting period finally ended, she was diagnosed with a slow-moving form of thyroid papillary cancer. She underwent two surgeries and radioactive iodine treatment before being declared cancer free. Jeri made a full recovery, meeting and marrying Jeff Mulder two years later, having two more children and building a life together.
Today Jeri wonders how different life would have been if an organization had existed in 1988 that could have helped her navigate her cancer experience, assisting her in getting insurance and access to care, explaining her treatment options, offering emotional support and even a helping hand in practical matters like talking to her family about the disease. Recognizing that Livestrong fills all those critical needs, Jeri was moved to “do something big” and suggested the idea to Jeff.
“Like what?” Jeff asked.
“Like $1 million,” she replied.
Over the course of the last 12 years, Jeff and Jeri have already raised $1 million for Livestrong and have supported a number of other charities in the past, but have never made a gift of this size. Now, the two decided they are going to go “all in” with Livestrong and hope to convince others to do the same with their gift.
“There are too many cancer survivors needlessly facing a diagnosis alone with no support, the same way I did,” said Jeri Mulder. “Livestrong exists to provide access to care, insurance, emotional support and fertility preservation and we want to do our part to ensure anyone facing cancer can turn to this great non-profit for many years to come.”
“More and more cancer patients are turning to Livestrong for its free services, and we want to help Livestrong support anyone in need,” said Jeff Mulder. “This great non-profit has a bright future, but it depends on donations in order to provide free help for cancer patients and survivors. We hope our gift inspires others to give today and support Livestrong.”
The $1 million gift will come over the next five years, with the possibility of even more to come based upon incentives for creative ideas that will augment Livestrong’s donations.
“The need for our free services is greater than ever before with the rate of cancer survivors continuing to soar by the millions year after year,” said Livestrong President Greg Lee. “Without the generosity of people like Jeff and Jeri Mulder, thousands of cancer survivors could be left saying ‘What now?’ after facing a diagnosis. We are deeply grateful to Jeri and Jeff and every donor and supporter who helps us serve people affected by cancer now.”
Through the first three months of the year, Livestrong has served almost twice as many people than in the same period in 2015. Additionally, the Foundation has saved its clients $2.4 million in both fertility preservation services and other cancer-related concerns in 2016 alone.
This October, Livestrong is celebrating its 20th annual Austin Challenge/Ride for the Roses event with the goal of raising another $1 million to serve people affected by cancer. Sign up to ride or run in honor or memory of a loved one affected by cancer today.
About the Livestrong Foundation
The Livestrong Foundation fights to improve the lives of people affected by cancer now. For 19 years, the Foundation has been a voice for cancer survivors and has served more than 3 million people. A pioneer in the field of survivorship, Livestrong remains a world leader in providing direct services to cancer patients and survivors, advocating for policies that enhance their quality of life, and conceiving partnerships that create access to programs across the country. The Livestrong at the YMCA program has made a return to fitness and well-being possible for more than 34,000 survivors in more than 460 YMCA locations around the country. Working with the University of Texas’ Dell Medical School, the Foundation is building the Livestrong Cancer Institutes to reinvent and redesign cancer care for and with people affected by cancer.