Hope for Heather was established in memory of Heather Weeks, a young woman who lost her life to colon cancer but spent her 20s working on behalf of women with ovarian cancer. Heather’s family started the organization in March of 2009. Their original goal was to raise about $1,000 a year for ovarian cancer research; they had no idea that within the next five years they would be able to donate more than $100,000. Heather’s mother, Frieda Weeks, says: “In 2009 we began our journey of what it’s like to run a nonprofit. It’s been an amazing journey… a journey of meeting people, journey of working with peers, and most importantly a journey of learning.”
Heather was a passionate dancer, but gave up dancing in her early 20s because she wasn’t feeling so well. Soon after, she started working with the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and became very devoted to raising awareness about the symptoms and signs of ovarian cancer. In June of 2008 Heather was diagnosed with an aggressive form of colon cancer, which would eventually take her life. She continued to work and remained very dedicated to raising awareness for ovarian cancer even as she battled her own cancer. Heather felt that with the time she had left, that she could change the world. Frieda, recalls that “Heather wanted people all around the world to look at the teal ribbon and know what it means, just like people know what the pink ribbon means. We want teal to be universal.”
Hope for Heather hosts multiple events throughout the year. One of their largest projects is the Teal Ribbon Project. During the New York State Fair, they set up booths and hand out teal ribbons paired with symptom cards, prepared by volunteers. Last year, they were able to give out more than 45,000 ribbons and cards. When it comes to this event, Frieda thinks that “It is really amazing; everywhere you look, there are thousands of people walking around all wearing a teal ribbon.”
Besides the Teal Ribbon Project, Hope for Heather also hosts a Teal Ribbon Run, holds an awareness and educational speaker series, and prepares Patient Pampering Bags. In March, the put on a fashion show and brunch called Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the summer they help out with Rebecca’s Ride, a scenic sixty mile motorcycle ride in honor of Rebecca Hafner, who lost her life to ovarian cancer. They partner with breast cancer organizations to hold combined events, raising awareness about the BRCA1 and BRCA2 inherited gene mutations that increase women’s risk of both breast and ovarian cancers.
Hope for Heather values being a Partner Member with the Alliance. They love being able to meet and network with other organizations. They believe strength in numbers can really create a difference. As Frieda says, “It’s why we’re all here. We have learned so much from the people we have met at conference and through the Alliance; it’s great to see and be surrounded by everyone with united goals.”