‘Runway for Hope’ to benefit cancer research
Photo: Courtesy Be The Difference Foundation
“Our relationship with Mary Crowley Cancer Research is invaluable, we are just always wanting more answers and we hope to have them faster,” said Be The Difference Foundation President Lynn Lenstcher, standing, left. “Runway for Hope helps make that happen.”

By Deb Silverthorn

Be The Difference Foundation’s (BTDF) Runway for Hope luncheon and fashion show will strut in style to support Mary Crowley Cancer Research. 

“We want to be sure ovarian cancer trials can continue and always be available here in Dallas. The money that the Be The Difference Foundation has given to Mary Crowley Cancer Research has helped open trials, provide medications and more,” said BTDF co-founder Julie Shrell, who is co-chairing this year’s event with her sister-in-law Dr. Lisa Genecov.  

“Sharing this with Julie, whose passion is incredible, is so meaningful,” said Genecov. “Almost everyone has a personal connection to this horrible disease and we hope the community will continue to support us. The clinical trials happening now may bring real change and we can all be a part of that.” 

Mary Crowley Cancer Research’s mission is to bring hope to cancer patients through innovative clinical trials while advancing treatment for patients in the future. With support from the Be The Difference Foundation, it moves mountains. 

“We’ve built an amazing community of survivors and at Runway for Hope we’re able to tell some of their stories and really get into each other’s hearts,” said BTFD President Lynn Lenstcher, who survived ovarian cancer 24 years ago. Lenstcher founded Runway for Hope in 2019 along with Deborah Montonen, the vice president and chief development officer for Mary Crowley Cancer Research. The first event was co-chaired by Sheryl Yonack. 

Sponsored by CW33, Dime Designs in Machine Embroidery, The Garden Gate, Jameson & Powers P.C., Nordstrom Galleria and Salon 3311, Runway for Hope will feature eight models of various ages ranging from their 20s to their 70s, each with her own story of hope and triumph, of grit and grace.

Modeling the fashions are Jill Bach, Kathy Banach, Jennifer Cawlfield, Josie Garza, Mimi Kogut, Kendra Land, Tammy Lunday and Rosa Orteaga.

“My aunt Evelyn (Goodman) died at 28 and I didn’t want to follow her. You have to know your history and you have to speak up for yourself to your doctor,” said Kogut, who was diagnosed in 2015 but is now cancer-free. Aware of her family history, although she tested negative for the BRCA gene, she insisted her gynecologist follow her closely with sonograms and blood tests for more than 15 years. Without her self-advocacy, her story might have ended differently. 

“In 2014 there was nothing and in 2015 I was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer,” said Kogut. “I’m here and I’m strong and I’m grateful.  

In 2021 alone, support from BTDF allowed Mary Crowley Cancer Research to maintain 39 open clinical trials, including a first drug-conjugate of its kind to be introduced into the clinic, and a first-in-class and a novel molecular entity for ovarian cancer patients; moreover, it provided consultations with 24 ovarian cancer patients. As the year ended, eight additional trials were in development to open in 2022. 

“Every day we’re working to find more efficient, less toxic trials,” said Jon Friedenberg, the organization’s CEO who joined last October. “Partnering with Be The Difference Foundation is a perfect match.” 

A third-generation San Franciscan, Friedenberg has spent his career in the fields of Jewish communal and health care leadership. He is married to the former Dodi Lazarow, an IT consultant whose father is a former director of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, where Dodi was born. The two met on a mission to Israel sponsored by the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University) in 1995, and they are the parents of Isaac and Talia.  

Friedenberg has helped to build communities and hospitals, and now he and Dodi have made Dallas their home.

Friedenberg’s relationship with Mary Crowley Cancer Research goes back to 2007 while he was giving a presentation, at Harvard University Medical School, about genomics studies he was involved with. The next year he was invited to visit Mary Crowley and he was impressed. Fifteen years later, as he was looking for his next challenge, the CEO position here became available.

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