Sky Foundation was established by Sheila in 2008 while she was recovering from surgery for cancer of the pancreas. One of her doctors suggested she create a foundation dedicated to raising awareness and funding medical research for the early detection and treatment of the disease.
“Our goal is to find an early detection method to increase survival rates and save lives.”
Sheila was diagnosed with the most common form of pancreatic cancer in the fall of 2007. She completed chemotherapy, radiation and “Whipple” surgery to remove her tumor.
“I have never looked back,” she adds. “Sky celebrated its eighth anniversary in June 2016.”
Pancreatic cancer is predicted to be the second most deadly cancer in the United States by 2020. Yet, it is ranked eighth for receipt of federal research dollars. Sky helps fill this gap. It awards seed-money grants to scientists and clinicians in the United States who are pursuing research of great promise in the areas of early detection, prevention or treatment.
This start-up funding helps researchers get to the point in their work where they can successfully attract financial support from the National Institutes of Health and other national funding sources. “We are pleased about this. We feel we are funding the right people,” she says.
“Third acts are an amazing way to make a difference and I believe Sky Foundation is the best way to reach out and inform people with a positive approach to a daunting disease.”
Sheila uses her energy and positive attitude to provide hope and knowledge when people face the challenges of a disease that they never anticipated. “When I was diagnosed, I didn’t know one person who had the disease,” she says. “Throughout the whole ordeal of treatment, I thought, ‘I wish I had someone to talk to other than my doctors.’ But there was no one for me to reach out to.”
“I decided, when I founded Sky, that I needed to become the person who people could reach out to – and that is who I have become. I want to give those diagnosed with the disease and those who have lost loved ones great hope. Through awareness and research we are helping to save lives.”
Sky Foundation hosts three events to raise public awareness and to be a listening ear to those recently diagnosed. The gatherings, which are both educational and entertaining, are designed to get participants thinking about their pancreas, an organ seldom talked about or understood. Genetic counseling also is introduced as a proactive measure for those with the disease in their family. The events also bring participants in contact with medical researchers who share their latest findings and insights.
“Our attendees and financial contributors represent an ever-growing community of people who have lost a loved one to the disease,” Sheila adds. “Like me, they believe they are funding hope through research.”
The foundation is led by a governing board, supported by a community advisory board and assisted by a scientific advisory committee.
The scientific advisory committee reviews grant applications and makes recommendations on funding to Sky’s governing board. Most scientific advisory committee members are researchers or doctors in the field.
The governing board is an all-volunteer board and has fiduciary responsibility for the philanthropic entity. Board members assist with fundraising and also with events to raise awareness. A representative from the foundation’s Young Professionals Group (YPG) sits on this board.
The advisory board likewise is made up of volunteers. These individuals – civic leaders, researchers, doctors and philanthropists – assist with fundraising, support events and serve as on-call advisers to the governing board.
The Sky Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization located in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Its 990 tax returns are available through GuideStar, the nonprofit entity that collects, organizes and presents tax and other information for all IRS-registered nonprofit organizations.