From Sorrow to Smiles: Volunteers Host Annual Fundraiser in Memory of a Beloved Mother

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Brian Brandt (left) and Ty Kuppig fundraise for the cause in a variety of ways.

Brian Brandt (left) and Ty Kuppig fundraise for the cause in a variety of ways.

Brian Brandt learned about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network 11 years ago when his mother was diagnosed and the family needed a place to get information about treatment options, clinical trials and all-around support and positivity.

“We couldn’t find much hope online,” he said.

What the Brandt family got when they reached out to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network was a better understanding of the disease, information about clinical trials (his mom enrolled in one), and much hope and compassion. Though his mother passed away nine months later, Brian continues to support the organization today because it gave his mother not only valuable knowledge, but power and a voice.

In one show of support, Brian began hosting a casual fundraiser in 2006 to bring more awareness and donations to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. He had made a promise to his mother that he would raise $1 million for the cause, and along with his husband, Ty Kuppig, and the support of friends and family, today they’ve raised more than $300,000 through this event and other activities.

Their garden party fundraiser, held for years at their home in Dorchester, Mass., was highly anticipated by friends and family.

“After Mom’s passing, everyone was looking for an opportunity to smile,” Brian said. “We like to think the event helped put a smile on a sad disease. I remember the first year of the garden party, it was very informal but focused on bringing people together and supporting the cause.”

The event has been hosted in November, Brian’s mom’s birthday month (also Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month), and has grown to some 150 guests over the years.

Through his work with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Brian said he was proud to share that he has met many “wonderful people who have faced the challenge of pancreatic cancer and who continue to give me energy and inspiration.”

He also credits his mom with connecting him with Ty – the couple met at one of Brian’s garden parties.

“Friends and family say that Mom sent Ty my way,” he said.

Three years ago, the couple moved into a loft in Boston. Not having a garden didn’t rain on their November party, though – they decorated their city loft in a post-Halloween masquerade theme and invited even more friends and family.

Ty said they continue to work to expand the “circle of awareness for pancreatic cancer” each year. Their events include time to share stories, talk about the strides being made in research and what the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is doing to fight the disease.

“We make sure guests learn and understand the urgency,” Ty said.  That urgency is what first compelled Ty to get involved, among other important reasons.

“I was struck by Brian’s dedication to the cause when I met him,” he said. “As I learned more about the disease, I felt strongly that it was not only important for me to be part of something that was special to Brian, but also to be part of something that was very time-sensitive, based on the statistics. This disease needs immediate attention.”

Brian and Ty give to the cause in many ways. They support the Framingham Police Chase 5K by fundraising for pancreatic cancer; Ty’s event company, Tyger Productions, is a generous sponsor of PurpleStride Boston; and Brian is a member of the National Office’s Ambassador Circle, which is charged with forging strategic connections in the community. The two have also attended National Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., sharing their personal story and urging Congress to support increased funding for pancreatic cancer research.

“Talking about your own experience goes a long way,” Brian said. “People need to be moved, and a personal story touches them in a way that facts cannot. I always come back to the personal experience, because this disease can touch anyone at any time.”

The two will also soon start planning this November’s fundraiser. It’s one of their favorite times of the year, as opposed to one of the saddest…and for good reason.

“The energy – the purple spirit – it always amazes us. It’s really uplifting and wonderful,” Brian said.

Are you interested in hosting a fundraiser event? Visit “Wage Hope My Way” at for information, ideas and inspiration. Anything goes!