Honoring a Mother’s Legacy by Making a Meaningful Impact | Heroes Highlights

We are shining the spotlight on Jennifer Underwood this month, an OCRA Hero who has taken the lessons her late mother taught her and transformed them into concrete actions to help the ovarian cancer community.

Posed photo of Jennifer Underwood, wearing yellow dress, smiling and leaning into her mother, Diane Mahlstadt
Jennifer Underwood and her mother, Diane Mahlstadt

“She was selfless and kind, thoughtful and generous, wise and energetic — she was truly amazing,” Jennifer said of her mother, Diane Mahlstadt.

Growing up with such an inspiring mother motivated Jennifer and her family to give back in Diane’s memory after she passed away from ovarian cancer in February 2021, nearly five years after her diagnosis. “My family and I truly got to witness what a real superhero looks like,” Jennifer noted. “No matter how she was feeling or what she had to do, she did it with such grace and with a smile. We were so lucky to have her and we miss her every single day.”

Jennifer and her family chose to put on one of OCRA’s signature cycling events as a way to honor Diane and help the ovarian cancer community. “It really brings people together. We listen to music, we laugh, we sweat, we hug it out, and we raise a lot of money.” 

This year marks the third in a row that “Ovarian Cycle Massapequa – Diane’s Legacy Ride” will take place — and each time, Jennifer has witnessed a multitude of people coming together in memory of her mother. Not only have Jennifer and her family been able to team up with cycling studio SpinCity Massapequa and adjacent restaurant Dark Horse every year for the event, but they’ve also received raffle baskets, silent auction items and other donations from various businesses.

“Over the past two years, we have raised $72,000. That is something we are extremely proud of,” Jennifer noted. “On the day of our Legacy Ride, I oftentimes feel overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed by how many people care and want to help. I’m overwhelmed by how many people also loved my mom — whether they’ve known her forever or briefly. She had that special impact on people. So on this day particularly, we gather together to try to make a difference.”

Jennifer hopes that these efforts in honor of her mother will make a meaningful impact on the ovarian cancer community. Donations raised from the upcoming event on June will support OCRA grantee Dr. Duaa Al-Rawi of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center through our Partners in Science programThe current tally is $21,000 and counting. In addition to funding critical research, this OCRA Hero also aspires to raise awareness and show ovarian cancer patients and their loved ones that they are seen. And at the heart of it all is her wish to make a difference that would make her mother proud. 

“I see this event as a tribute to my mom because without her, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I consider myself extremely lucky to have had her as my mother,” Jennifer said. “With Mother’s Day approaching, I can’t help but reflect on my life and what a mother really means. She taught me how to be a great mother and she gave me all the tools I would ever need in life. She’s my role model and my inspiration.”

Interested in putting on your own fundraiser in honor or memory of a loved one? We can help you turn your idea into an impactful event!

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