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Tuesday, January 05, 2021

How Expect Miracles Weathered 2020

Reported by Andrew Lusk, Editorial Intern

Despite a rough year for fundraising, a Massachusetts-based cancer-fighting charity broke records in 2020, and is looking to 2021 to continue supporting survivors amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Frank Heavey
Expect Miracles Foundation
Executive Director
The Boston-based Expect Miracles Foundation, Financial Services Against Cancer, is run by mutual fund industry veterans who raise money for cancer-fighting research and provide assistance to those financially devastated by cancer. MFWire spoke to both Frank Heavey, executive director of Expect Miracles, and Samantha Watson, a two-time cancer survivor and founder of the Samfund, which merged with Expect Miracles in 2019.

Heavey says, "While the pandemic hurt our event fundraising (down 19 percent from 2019), individual and corporate donations were up 86 percent."

"Our cancer research grants to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center were down 24 percent from last year's record $1.45 million, because of the pandemic's impact on our in-person fundraising events, but our Samfund grants to young adult cancer survivors, particularly for housing expenses, were up 64 percent. A record 333 Samfund grants [were] awarded worth a record $452,000. In a time of greatest need, we are so grateful for our supporters generosity, leadership and kindness."

"I thought the financial industry responded just outstandingly," he adds, "for being able to pivot from doing all in-person events to a lot of virtual and modified in-person events."

"Our goal when the pandemic broke out in March was to bend and not break, and I think we did that very well."

Heavey says housing costs are many cancer survivors' main priority during the pandemic, as little to no government assistance has come on that front. Survivors who lost their jobs due to COVID now have no source of income, and with many being immunocompromised during and after their treatment, they often have no means of safely finding a new one.

Watson tells MFWire, "I think the most remarkable thing that happened in 2020 for our Samfund grants program was how much we were able to pivot and meet the needs of young adults who are struggling not only because of cancer, but because of the pandemic."

"Any group that was struggling before the pandemic was more likely to struggle during it," she adds, "and for our young adult survivors, they were already having a hard time paying rent and getting their prescriptions before COVID. What we decided to do in March was begin a fundraising campaign, which ended up getting [more than] a quarter of a million dollars to help with rent and mortgage payments for those survivors."

The Samfund was founded in 2003 by Watson following her own battles with cancer and its associated costs. Watson currently serves as managing director of stewardship for the fund, and calls her work "paying it forward" in relation to the help she received during her own times of strife.

"People and companies really stepped up to help the cancer community," Heavey adds, noting that he expects hybrid in-person and virtual events to be a mainstay in future fundraising efforts.  

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