In June 2010, Lisalynne Quinn’s life would be forever changed after learning that her daughter’s friend, Lauren, had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma—a bone and soft tissue cancer primarily diagnosed in adolescents and young adults. Like a daughter to Lisalynne, Lauren was a spirited, brave girl who lost her six-year battle with the disease this past December.
“As a parent, the most important thing is that this can’t keep happening,” says Lisalynne, Director of Marketing for RED Capital Group.
That experience led Lisalynne to become involved with the 1 Million 4 Anna Foundation, a nonprofit that is on a mission to eradicate Ewing’s sarcoma. Founded by Carol and David Basso, the organization was formed after the pair lost their daughter, Anna Basso, to this aggressive form of cancer in 2011. Throughout her 18-month fight, Anna was inspired by prayer, and the words of one Bible verse in particular—Romans 12:12—seemed to strike a chord: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
Family, friends and total strangers pledged to pray for Anna every day at 12:12, resulting in over 1 million prayers said on Anna’s behalf. Though she ultimately lost the fight with Ewing’s, Anna wanted her legacy to be an organization dedicated to finding ways to beat this devastating disease and help those who are affected by it. In January 2012, 1 Million 4 Anna was born.
The main mission of the nonprofit: to fund promising research on Ewing’s. “Only 4 percent of all cancer funding goes to pediatric cancer as a whole,” Lisalynne says. That number shrinks as you break it down to sarcomas, and it grows even smaller when you narrow the funding down to Ewing’s—making the mission of 1 Million 4 Anna that much more necessary.
“Finding ways to beat cancer has always been near and dear to me since I’ve lost eight family members to cancer,” says Jay Smith, Assistant Vice President of FHA Asset Management for RED Capital Group. That’s what prompted him to get involved with 1 Million 4 Anna last year after learning more about the organization through his time spent on the ORIX Foundation review board.
Both Jay and Lisalynne have volunteered at various 1 Million 4 Anna events in the past, but the two of them are now embarking on their first year as members of the fundraising and events planning committee for the organization. The duo will help plan events like the “Float On Dinner,” an annual affair where scholarships are awarded to Ewing’s warriors and survivors—another key mission for the nonprofit. To date, 88 scholarships have been awarded to young adults in 21 states. “Most of these kids survive and thrive, and a lot of the scholarship recipients go on to pursue careers in the medical field,” Lisalynne says.
Jay and Lisalynne also help plan the organization’s charity golf tournaments, being held in Atlanta in April and Dallas this September. It was during one of these past golf tournaments that Jay met a man who was in remission—something you couldn’t tell by just looking at hm. “That was a happy ending,” Jay says. “I got to see how the organization is helping people achieve their dreams and live their lives on their own terms.”
Fundraising and volunteering at the golf tournaments are always open to anyone who wants to get involved, and there’s also another way to help out: donating items to the Anna’s Closet program. Born from the organization’s third mission—to assist families with a child in treatment and support all teens facing any cancer—Anna’s Closet is a collection of donated items housed in 15 children’s hospitals across nine states. The idea? To provide small gifts for teens—everything from backpacks and dart boards to ear buds and board games. Anna wanted to make sure kids her age had something that could make them smile during their doctor visits. This summer, Lisalynne and Jay will be helping to organize Anna’s Closet drives at ORIX and RED offices in both Dallas and Columbus.
“Volunteers play a vital role in the success of every single 1 Million 4 Anna event, as our 5-year-old foundation is 100 percent volunteer driven,” says Carol Basso, Anna’s mother and co-founder of 1 Million 4 Anna.
And Lisalynne has gained just as much from the organization—just ask her about the index card that hangs on her refrigerator that reads “Motherhood is my Ministry for God.” When Lisalynne’s children—21-year-old Rachael and 19-year-old Alex—were young, a friend gave her the card and told her to look at it when she felt like she was messing up as a parent. Not thinking much of it at the time, Lisalynne agreed to post it—some 18 years later, it still hangs there and now has a deeper meaning than she imagined at the time.
“After getting to know Carol and talking to Lauren’s mother, I’ve come to realize that motherhood doesn’t apply to just my own kids,” Lisalynne says. “I’ve gained so much from watching these women fight for their kids. I’ve learned a lot about life—next to my family and church, this is what’s in my heart.”
Family is something both Lisalynne and Jay treasure: Lisalynne’s two children attend the University of Oklahoma, while Jay has nieces and nephews that he likes to spoil before returning them to their parents. Another theme in both of their lives: running. Lisalynne calls it therapy for her, and she dedicates every half-marathon, marathon and ultra she runs to a loved one like Lauren. Come fall, you can find her cheering on the University of Oklahoma and Western Michigan University—her alma mater. For Jay, spring brings with it one of his favorite pastimes: cheering on his beloved Texas Rangers.
One more common thread in both Jay’s and Lisalynne’s lives—their desire to make someone else’s life a little happier.
“If there’s a need, my heart calls out to it,” Lisalynne says. “I just believe we’re called to love and serve each other.”