According to Sharon Simmons, president of Francine’s Friends Mobile Mammography, there isn’t a woman, “probably in the world,” who hasn’t been touched by breast cancer in some way.
For this reason, said Simmons, the organization’s 10th anniversary luncheon in October, focuses on the connection of its members to each other and especially on two founding members: Julie Eckert Clancy and Jeanne Garton.
Clancy, owner of women’s upscale clothier Jophiel, was connected with the endeavor even before it was an entity.
“My friends who were cultivating the idea of this organization approached me with the idea of doing a fashion show for the announcement and first fundraiser for the group,” said Clancy, a board member who was involved with FFMM during its first five years.
“I met with a group of women who were passionate about doing something positive for the community, and these role models included Irene Walters and Sharon Simmons, along with all the other women who first met in the conference rooms discussing what could be. It is an honor and privilege to be invited to participate again in the anniversary celebration.
“I knew Francine personally. She came into Jophiel as a customer and became a dear friend. she had such a sense of humor and a twinkle in her eye – I think the twinkle was her orneriness!”
One of the things Clancy did with the fashion shows, said Simmons, was to use breast cancer survivors as models and some as makeovers for survivors.
“Those makeovers and sharing of breast cancer survivor stories became a signature part of the event,” said Simmons, “and each time we planned an event, Julie’s enthusiasm, empathy and professionalism made each and every survivor comfortable and able to enjoy her experience to the fullest.”
Clancy was also instrumental to bringing Garton to the organization.
“From her first encounter with the group, Jeanne jumped in with both feet, and has co-chaired the table captain committee since the beginning,” recalled Simmons, a 2012 Athena Award winner.
Garton, a former real estate agent who had already been involved with many other fundraisers, felt an emotional pull to FFMM because of so many friends who were breast cancer survivors.
“Over the 10 years that I have been on the board, it has been my pleasure to work with them and get to know them. They are all truly inspirational,” said Garton, adding that getting involved was a way of giving back to the community and helping in some way.
“Also, I met my fiancé two years ago. He had just moved back to Fort Wayne after losing his wife to a 10-year battle with breast cancer.”
The increasingly popular annual, 10th anniversary “Lunch with Friends” gala takes place Oct. 10 at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum, and donations cover the cost of screening mammograms given in the vividly-colored coach-about-town. The women are seated at tables that are supervised by friendly table captains.
“Jeanne brings her calm, gracious spirit to the task of managing at times 60 different table captains and their tablemates. As you can imagine, this can get kinda crazy and Jeanne keeps us all grounded and focused. We have been blessed to have both Julie and Jeannie a part of FFMM. They are both such giving and committed volunteers, and we are so excited to have Julie’s involvement once again this year and Jeanne’s steady leadership will again be behind our table captains as they invite their friends to lunch with friends.
“Both Julie and Jeanne are such wonderful, caring people,” said Simmons, “and Francine’s Friends is all about friends and their connections. And doesn’t the story of Julie and Jeanne just fit that concept of some helping other women? If Julie hadn’t been involved with us in the early stages, we wouldn’t have connected with Jeannie. Life is good!”