Forward4Tobi: Making a Difference, One Life at a Time
Five hundred strangers gathered in a crowded room in late April to hear from some of the top professionals treating people with stage IV disease. Most had never before attended our Annual Conference on Metastatic Breast Cancer: Thriving Together. They didn’t know what to expect. But thanks to our partners at the Forward4Tobi Foundation, they left as friends.
In 2017, LBBC lost the major underwriter for our travel grant program. The grants, which offset the costs of travel to our conference, are essential to many whose cancer diagnosis strains their finances. We aggressively sought new funders. So when Forward4Tobi approached LBBC, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with an organization whose mission aligns so closely with our own.
Forward4Tobi eases the lives of people with breast cancer and their families with financial assistance so they can focus on recovering and living well. It was founded in 2013 in memory of Tobi Lauren Klonecki, who had stage IV breast cancer. A wife, mother and friend, Tobi was deeply affected throughout her treatment by the people she met who struggled because of lack of access to financial resources and emotional support. Tobi recognized she was fortunate, and she wanted to give back. After her death, Tobi’s family and friends established the foundation to pay it forward, for Tobi.
Thanks to Forward4Tobi’s $50,000 gift, as well as support from several other generous donors, 100 people received travel grants to attend our Philadelphia conference, including 65 first-time attendees. Many told us the conference profoundly affected them, allowing them to establish lasting friendships that they believed would continue beyond our weekend together.
“It was amazing to see and meet so many people going through the exact same journey that my wife and I are going through,” one person said. “It helped us feel not so isolated.”
“As a young single mom of a young child, newly diagnosed as metastatic, I wanted the opportunity to connect with others who are in similar situations,” one woman wrote. “I am grateful I was able to meet many others like me, facing similar issues, and finding hope during a very difficult time.”
Another wrote, “I attended the conference after receiving my mets diagnosis five months prior. Those had been very dark months, and being around so many vibrant, positive women and their messages of hope and life gave me so much hope and inspiration!”
Others pointed to the information they received; one said the plenary sessions “gave me hope that my quality and quantity of life is going to be more than I expected.” Another got skills and “left feeling empowered, hopeful, and with tools to cope better.”
Forward4Tobi volunteers exhibited and participated in the program, with co-founder Jodi Soriano addressing the crowd during opening remarks. Travel grant participants appreciated the opportunity to thank our partners in person.
“This was my first time attending the conference, and I absolutely loved it,” said one recipient. “Meeting the amazing women from the Forward4Tobi organization was especially meaningful to me.”
Another said, “[Forward4Tobi is] making a difference in the lives of people who are personally experiencing the hardships that come with have MBC. The travel grants are so appreciated and a necessity for so many of us to come together, learn, support and leave feeling less alone and more informed.”
LBBC is very grateful for our partnership with Forward4Tobi, which helps us achieve our vision of a world where no one impacted by breast cancer feels uninformed or alone. We are hopeful that, for many travel grant recipients, the conference serves as a starting point for bonds that will last a lifetime. As one woman told us, “To be able to connect with so many others who understand the difficulties we face with this disease is truly invaluable. … I finally found some hope during a very dark and scary time in my life. I am truly grateful for this opportunity, and I hope that others who feel as lost, hopeless, and alone in this disease will be able to find the support and hope they need by attending this conference in the future.”