Friends since the 5th grade, Heather Brady and Peter Conlon enjoyed a childhood like most others – filled with lots of laughs, playground games at Harlan Elementary, and fond memories of a friendship built on trust and loyalty that grew over time. The pair graduated from Mt. Pleasant High School together in 2008 and still today remain close friends.
For the last 10 years, their friendship has exhibited strength far greater than most. That’s because when Peter was only 18, he was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma.
“I remember crying and praying when Peter was diagnosed and hoping that my friend would be cured of this awful disease,” said Brady. “It was devastating to watch a best friend go through this at such a young age.”
Now 28, Brady enjoys her career as a quality and accreditation coordinator in the Oncology Department at Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children. She also coaches club field hockey and served on the committee for the Nemours Annual Prom, which benefits patients with cancer and other life-threatening diseases and took place on May 5th.
But as busy as she is, her old friend Peter remains at the forefront of her mind.
Juggling it all, Brady has spent the last nine weeks running for the Delaware Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Woman of the Year in Peter’s honor. Three local women are competing to win at the local level and having the honor of competing for the national crown.
The LLS Man and Woman of the Year is philanthropic competition to support blood cancer research where candidates form fundraising teams and compete in honor of local survivors.
“I consider it a privilege to honor Peter with this fundraising effort and to raise funds and awareness for such an amazing cause,” said Brady.
“LLS has made tremendous strides in the fight against blood cancer and has made significant, investments in treatments specifically targeting leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma.”
Following his original diagnosis, Peter underwent years of treatment and ultimately went into remission. He lived a normal, healthy life until the summer of 2017, when he received the heart-wrenching news that his cancer had returned. “Peter remained positive, and following months of intense treatment, I am happy to share that he is back in remission, and is again living a healthy life,” said Brady.
The campaign is driven entirely by the creativity and hard work of the candidates. Well planned fundraisers that draw lots of support are key to success.
Heather hosted a special tailgate in Peter’s honor at Winterthur’s Point-to-Point, a golf outing at Porky Oliver’s Golf Club, a Charity Orange Theory Workout Class, a Happy Hour fundraiser at Trolley Square Oyster House, and a workshop at Little Nest Photography in Glen Mills.
Brady reflected on a fun and successful concept that came thanks to a supporter. “Little Nest owner and creative genius Laura Novak gave us a great fundraising idea. They professionally retouched and printed our personal images we sent them. We then did a “DIY” workshop to mount and customize our photos, and we all left with a timeless piece of art for our home!”
Brady, a star high school athlete who went on to play field hockey at the University of Louisville, said she also relied greatly on connections and personal asks. Several donations have come from family, friends or local businesses.
“It is more work than you could ever imagine. But whenever I get exhausted or uncomfortable asking for money, I remind myself of how those with cancer struggle on a daily basis and I come back down to reality. At the end the day, I know my hard work will improve the life of someone who is suffering, so that makes it all worth it.”
“I am a very competitive person. I enjoy a challenge which is why our team goal for this campaign is an ambitious $50,000. If I am capable and willing to raise 50,000 in 10 short weeks- why would I not try?”
Peter Conlon is proud of his close friend’s effort and could not be more grateful. “Heather has always been there for me and cares so much about me and this cause. People like Heather are the reason we will defeat cancer one day.”
The campaign is in its final stretch and concludes on June 8th. If you would like to contribute to Heather’s campaign for the LLS Woman of the Year, you can visit her fundraising page at http://pages.mwoy.org/de/delaware18/hbrady.