When 16 women came together in 1993 to raise awareness and philanthropic funds for breast health programs at Martha Jefferson Hospital, they could not have anticipated what a profound impact their efforts would have nearly three decades later.
The seed that small group planted has blossomed ever since, and is continuing to thrive here at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. Today, The Women’s Committee (TWC) has nearly 300 tenured and active members. In partnership with the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation, the group raises a net average of $200,000 each year, providing funds for a host of hospital programs.
“It’s pretty amazing that the work these women began has carried through for so long and contributed such a significant amount of work and philanthropic support over the years,” says Amy Nolasco, TWC chair. “To be successful, we need the support of our community, and that’s one thing that remains consistent. That makes Charlottesville a pretty special place.”
One of TWC’s first fundraisers was Martha’s Market, an event that brings together hundreds of vendors and shoppers seeking unique treasures and an opportunity to support cancer care and other women’s health initiatives at Sentara Martha Jefferson. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Martha’s Market will take place primarily online, November 13-15, for the first time in the event’s 27-year history. Wells Fargo Bank is generously supporting the event as this year’s presenting sponsor.
“We’re excited about making this a virtual event,” says Nolasco, who also is chair of Martha’s Market. “While it’s going to be different, we have a lot of support from the community. Buyers can shop from the comfort and safety of their homes or shop in person at participating local merchants. And now that we’ve worked out the logistics of offering the shopping experience online, we can continue to do a mix of in-person and online shopping in years to come.”
Through the tremendous success of Martha’s Market and related annual fundraisers such as the In The Pink Tennis Tournament, TWC has raised more than $6 million over the years. These event proceeds have supported impactful programs like free Breast Health Screening Days, providing free mammograms and health screenings each year for approximately 100 women in our community. TWC also established Marianne’s Room, a special resource room for women diagnosed with cancer, providing wigs, scarves, special “Chemo Caps,” soft postoperative prostheses and camisoles to breast cancer patients after a mastectomy, at no cost to the patient.
Embracing the philosophy that promoting an overall sense of well-being is an integral part of care and healing, TWC funding also provides services such as massage therapy, yoga, exercise classes and support groups. Their support of blanket warmers and chairs in the Infusion Center keeps patients as comfortable as possible while undergoing often-lengthy treatments. Their 2020 support renewed their funding for these initiatives and provided critical funding to the Caregiver Center, the Mother and Baby Fund, the High-Risk Breast Program, the Cancer Survivorship Program, and the Palliative Care Program.
“As a community cancer center, we are focused on the medical care provided and on the holistic care of each individual,” says Laura Kavanagh, regional oncology director at Sentara Martha Jefferson’s Phillips Cancer Center. “Body image, mental health, community and survivorship are really important to us as a comprehensive cancer program. Services and programs like these inspire patients to seek us out for their care—they know these personalized services can help them through their treatments and support them through survivorship. We’re so grateful for the generosity of our community and The Women’s Committee.”
Crystal Chu, Blue Ridge Cancer Program team coordinator, adds that many of these programs and services have continued, even amidst the coronavirus crisis. The support groups are particularly important, she says, and the Sentara Martha Jefferson team has found creative ways to keep women engaged and supporting one another.
“The efforts of The Women’s Committee really show that our community comes together to offer everything our patients need beyond treatments,” Chu says. “It’s really a full community effort that involves so many volunteers and donors—many of whom have friends and loved ones battling cancer—who share a piece of this journey. We wouldn’t be able to offer this comprehensive program without their support.”
For Nolasco, whose mother was treated for breast cancer at Sentara Martha Jefferson, serving on TWC is personal. It allows her the opportunity to give back to a community that rallied around her loved ones as they battled the illness.
“It’s really rewarding for me to be able to give something back to the community hospital that was super supportive of my mom during her cancer diagnosis and treatment,” says Nolasco. “As a family, I just felt like we were being extremely well cared for while my mom went through her treatments. I never felt like we were a number or that we were just trying to be moved quickly through the process. It’s been wonderful to see how the team at ‘Martha Jeff’ shares that Caring Tradition.”
For more information, or to become a member of The Women’s Committee, please visit mjhfoundation.org or contact the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation Office at 434-654-8258.
Sentara Martha Jefferson Programs and Services Funded from 2019 TWC Community Support
- Cancer Resource Center/ Marianne’s Room
- Breast Health Screening Days
- High-Risk Breast Cancer Program
- Cancer Survivorship Programs
- Caregiver Center
- Palliative Care
- Cancer Care Center Staff Education
- Special Care Nursery Bottle Warmers
- Cancer Center: Patient Massage, Aromatherapy and Patient Special Needs
- Caring Embrace Yarn