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The Pink Agenda Makes Philanthropy Fun

By BCRF | October 8, 2014

BCRF sits down with TPA to talk how it all started, the mission and its future

In 2012, BCRF officially partnered with The Pink Agenda (TPA), a nonprofit that engages today’s generation to find a cure for tomorrow. Marisa Renee Lee and Jaquelyn Scharnick founded the organization with friend Liana Douillet Guzman to honor their loved one's battles with breast cancer and mobilize their friends and family to contribute to a cure. With BCRF as its sole beneficiary, TPA is growing rapidly and touching more lives every year with their enthusiasm and generosity. To date, TPA has raised nearly $1 million dollars for breast cancer research.

On Thursday, October 2, The Pink Agenda welcomed more than 700 guests to its annual gala at the Frank Gehry-designed IAC building in New York. The gala, which began as a small house party, raised nearly $250,000 for breast cancer research.

On the eve of the 7th annual gala, we had a chance to sit down with Jaquelyn Scharnick to get the scoop on all things TPA.

By working mainly with young professionals, TPA is unique among other breast cancer charities. Why do you think it's important to work with young men and women?

From the very beginning, we’ve believed that fun and philanthropy are not mutually exclusive, and, at The Pink Agenda, we prove that every day in every way.  While we’re serious about our mission, we’re also serious about having a good time and believe that together we can make breast cancer history.

How has partnering with BCRF in 2012 affected TPA?

We entered into a strategic partnership with BCRF because we believed that the skills and scale of the organization would help ensure that The Pink Agenda flourishes in the future so that breast cancer can become a thing of the past. 

As a result of our partnership, TPA has grown and become more sustainable and we’ve been able to even more effectively deliver on our mission and our commitment to making breast cancer history.

Tell us more about your relationship with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Can you expand on the direct care grants TPA provides and the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer?

The Pink Agenda finds, funds and partners with people and programs that are improving the lives of those suffering from breast cancer and conducting the groundbreaking research necessary to improve their odds. To accomplish the former, we work with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer to identify a project that will have a direct and positive impact on women’s cancer care. 

Dana-Farber’s Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer was the first program of its kind in New England and remains one of the only such programs in the United States. For me, supporting Dana-Farber has particular meaning, as it’s where I was treated for leukemia in 1997 and 1999. I know firsthand that its work saves lives, and it’s a real privilege to be able to support it.

What are some TPA’s biggest accomplishments?

We have had so many milestones along the way. I can remember securing our first corporate sponsorship in 2007, and now we’ve partnered companies around the country. Ultimately, I think our biggest accomplishment has been engaging individuals and organizations in our cause and continuing to find new and exciting ways for them to get and stay involved, so that we can continue to move toward a future without breast cancer. 

You recently partnered with Giuliana Rancic's FAB-U-WISH. What do you think working together will bring to TPA?

Giuliana is an inspiration to so many, and partnering with her and her fantastic initiative FAB-U-WISH allows us to deliver on our commitment to improve the lives of those suffering from breast cancer. At the same time, working together will enable us to expand our reach and generate additional awareness about who we are, what we do and how people can join us.

After seven years of leading TPA, what is one of your favorite memories?

There really are so many terrific ones. One of my favorite ones, though, was speaking at our gala in May 2009. My mother was in the audience and, much to her surprise, my remarks focused on her. She had been first diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago that month, and honoring her and the strength she showed through her diagnoses and my leukemia diagnosis was really special. 

My commitment to The Pink Agenda is due, in part, to the fact that, yes, we throw fantastic parties and have a terrific time. But it is even more directly connected to the important work we’re doing and the very real strides we’re making toward eradicating the disease that has been a part of my life for even further back than I can remember. And while my story—and my inspiration—may be unique, everyone has one. Over the years, it has been wonderful to see so many people adopt The Pink Agenda as their charity of choice because of its ability to allow them to tell those stories and honor them in a way that makes a real difference.

Lastly, what are your long-term goals for TPA?

I want The Pink Agenda to continue to grow while staying true to its original mission and maintaining the level of creativity and organizational efficiency that has always set it apart. I hope that, in time, The Pink Agenda will become the charity of choice for young professionals within the breast cancer space and beyond it, but ultimately, I hope that the work we do and the money we raise helps makes breast cancer a thing of the past.