After losing her mother to breast cancer in 2013, Mt. Laurel resident Kelly Neri made it her mission to spread awareness about the disease and what resources are available to those afflicted.
Up until her mother’s death, Neri served as her primary caretaker, along with her three siblings, and together they witnessed firsthand the lack of resources readily available to breast cancer patients and the people caring for them.
“Through her entire journey, if a resource existed I would have found it, and there was nothing, there was nothing for her,” said Neri. “I just felt that when we lost her our work just didn’t feel done, that if there were any resources out there we needed to bring awareness to that so other women didn’t have to go through what our mom went through.”
That was the impetus behind their decision to start Maryann’s Pink Warriors. In memory of their mother, Neri and her siblings started raising money and collecting donations for chemo bags and other resources for patients.
Things really took off when they partnered with nonprofit Unite for Her, an organization that shares their mission to connect breast cancer patients with options and resources. Through this partnership, they were able to expand their reach and what they could offer the women they work with.
“It was everything I wish my mother had. I became really passionate about their cause and what they do, and now all our fundraising is for them,” said Neri.
On Oct. 5, Maryann’s Pink Warriors is teaming up with partners Unite for Her and Mt. Laurel Baseball for their third annual Pink Homerun Derby to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year’s event will be taking place at the Triplex at Laurel Acres starting at 6 p.m. The derby is aimed at kids grades two through seven, however, there will be chances for parents to participate as well.
The idea for the derby came about through Neri’s kids’ involvement in sports. She felt she had found a family with the Mt. Laurel baseball community, and the derby was a natural choice for a benefit. Over the past three years, after expanding the derby and holding a similar event in Cinnaminson, Neri has been able to raise more than $25,000 for Unite for Her.
“Every $2,000 raised we sponsor a woman for a full year of services,” said Neri.
At the event, every child who is signed up will be able to compete in the derby with a group of other children divided up by age. Trophies will be up for grabs provided by Crown Trophy in Marlton. During the final portion of the evening, dads and coaches will compete for their own trophies. Food at the derby will be provided by Wegmans.
Although registration for the event is free, a $15 shirt must be purchased for any children wishing to participate.
Laura Greco is one of several women Neri has been able to help through her own organization, their partners and fundraising efforts like the upcoming derby.
When she received her diagnosis in January of this year, a friend of Greco’s immediately connected her with Neri.
“Kelly and her organization, Maryann’s Pink Warriors, and the Unite for Her organization have been an amazing support and resource throughout my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Not only did Kelly personally check in with me throughout, but she also introduced me to the Unite for Her organization and helped me enroll to attend their Wellness Day event in May,” said Greco.
While attending Wellness Day, Greco says she learned about complementary therapies like acupuncture, yoga, reiki, massage and the importance of nutrition while undergoing treatment.
“A cancer diagnosis can make a person feel powerless; this Wellness Day gave me my power back. It gave me resources to help me through this difficult journey,” said Greco.
She has been invited to attend the derby as an honored guest and is looking forward to the show of support and being able to return some of that support to those who have helped her in her time of need.
“I am so excited for the Pink Home Run Derby. I am looking forward to giving back to these organizations that have given so much to my family and me,” said Greco. “Seeing the Mt. Laurel community come together to help organizations like these is very inspiring. We truly live in a wonderful community.”
If you would like to contribute but are unable to make it to the derby, you can donate online at uniteforher.salsalabs.org/maryanns_pinkwarriors.