The Volunteer Advisory Council (VAC) is a group of Pancreatic Cancer Action Network volunteers who provide feedback and advice to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network with regard to the Community Engagement program, volunteer affiliate network and other initiatives of the organization.
Angeli Bateman never forgot when she read about Randy Pausch’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2007. It was the first time she had ever heard of the disease and his story has remained with her.
Fast forward to January 2014 when her own father, a proud U.S. Army Veteran, was diagnosed at 67 with this same disease. After undergoing the grueling Whipple procedure and chemotherapy, he passed away a short nine months later. After his death, Bateman attended her first PurpleStride Dallas/Ft Worth with her family by her side. Just two months later, Team Bumpy was formed for PurpleStride, lovingly named after what the grandkids called her dad.. Today, she and her oldest daughter lead their PurpleStride team as Grand Club members. There, with thousands of others who had walked this journey, she knew that she needed to get more involved. While she has volunteered for various other organizations and activities, she has never come across a more dedicated and passionate group than the volunteers of the DFW Affiliate. It is through them that she finds her inspiration and drive to continue the fight that took her dad. Bateman has served as social media administrator, November Awareness Chair, attended Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. and sat in many local PanCAN Advocacy congressional district meetings.
Bateman is currently serving as Communications Chair with the DFW Affiliate. Her role has allowed her to make long-lasting friendships in the pancreatic cancer community. It has given her the great opportunity to share the amazing stories of survivors, caregivers and advocates. She firmly believes that the power of our stories will be the key to change outcomes for this disease.
Bateman was born and raised in El Paso and has her Bachelor’s in Business Administration, with a concentration in Human Resources, from the University of Texas at El Paso. She worked in HR for many years in her beloved hometown until she moved to the DFW metroplex. She is a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful girls and wife to a loving husband. Her hobbies include working out, reading, traveling and watching her girls grow into strong advocates as well! As she guides them, she remembers one of her favorite quotes: “Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.” — Morgan Harper Nichols
If Helen Dillen looks familiar, it may be because she’s moved around the country a few times, and every time has found a PanCAN family in her new city! Her relationship with PanCAN began in her home state of Texas in 2010, two years after losing her grandmother to pancreatic cancer. She remembers being devastated with the diagnosis but that connection has led her to meet so many amazing fellow volunteers.
Dillen first started volunteering with PanCAN’s Dallas/Ft Worth Affiliate and about a year later, moved to Austin, where she quickly found her purple family. She spent five years there, building relationships with teams and fundraisers, before she and her husband moved to Portland, Oregon in 2016. She started there as Volunteer Chair but transitioned to Affiliate Chair in 2018 and under her leadership, the Affiliate has grown significantly.
Dillen’s own family is growing as well, as she welcomed baby Dale in the summer of 2021. She and her husband love to take him exploring all that Oregon has to offer – crabbing, fishing, hiking, camping and taking in the beautiful scenery. In addition to her PanCAN work, Dillen also sits on the board of directors for a local non-profit that is focused on engaging youth in civic activities to better themselves and their communities.
And while her grandmother remains Dillen’s original “why,” she says she has gained so many more reasons to continue her volunteer work and continue to fight for survivors and friends who’ve lost loved ones.
“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” (Helen Keller)
Janice Griffin’s personal journey with pancreatic cancer began in June 2009 when she lost her mom, Connie Drudik, to the disease after only 9 months.
In 2012, Griffin literally stumbled upon a Boston PurpleStride event. It was truly an emotional and life-changing moment for her. From her first Boston Affiliate meeting to the present, Griffin has been able to channel her energy and passion in a positive way as a volunteer, educator, advocate and leader with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN).
She has served as a PanCAN general volunteer, PurpleStride KidZone Chair, Volunteer Chair (two years), and currently Affiliate Chair (three years).
In addition to affiliate activities, Griffin serves on committees for the annual Framingham Police 5k for Pancreatic Cancer and The Boston Purple Party. She also participates on a Special Commission to Study Pancreatic Cancer with the Commonwealth of Mass.
Griffin is committed to continuing the mission of changing the future of pancreatic cancer not by herself, but with the support of other committed individuals. “It is truly an honor to be a part of the Volunteer Advisory Council, and I look forward to this opportunity within the PanCAN community.”
Born and raised in rural Nebraska, Griffin has lived in New England for nearly 30 years with her husband, son and daughter. She currently lives in Arlington, Mass. The Griffin team, Butterfly4Mom, participates in Boston PurpleStride annually.
When not involved with PanCAN, Griffin loves to walk, cycle, practice yoga, garden, and travel with her family, including her children’s spouses. For the past 25 years, she has worked with students with special needs. Her mom’s love of serving others inspired the direction of Griffin’s life.
Kaz Iwamoto has sweet memories of his father – especially since together, they started Harry’s Berries, one of the best strawberry businesses in the world. Those strawberries are considered by many as the tastiest you’ll ever find.
That is just one legacy his father left when he died in 1993, four days after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This began Iwamoto’s hatred for cancer and led him to the American Cancer Society and Relay For Life. His first Relay For Life was in 2000, and four years later, he served as the California Chair for Relay For Life and on the National Relay Advisory Team. This role took him to represent ACS in the Philippines, Japan and Australia.
He contacted PanCAN when his mother also died of pancreatic cancer, five months after diagnosis, in 2017. Iwamoto felt the need to focus on pancreatic cancer, and being a volunteer over-achiever, he volunteered at three PurpleStride events in 2018. The next year, he was in the spotlight, speaking at the PanCAN Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.. He also spoke at the annual Volunteer Leadership Summit and at PurpleStride San Diego.
Volunteering for PanCAN is an honor. He continues as Logistics Chair for PurpleStride Los Angeles.
Iwamoto’s career was cut short due to his own brain aneurysm, but the legacy of Harry’s Berries continues to thrive under his sister. As a proud U.S. Army veteran, it’s only appropriate that Iwamoto was married on the 4th of July and has been married to Yoshiko for 46 years. They have three sons and one granddaughter. He enjoys his daily 3-mile walk and working in the garden.
Jeanne Lipshetz found PanCAN the year after pancreatic cancer delivered her a double blow. In June of 2010, Jeanne’s mother passed away after a nine-month battle. On the day of the funeral, Jeanne’s sister was diagnosed with the same disease. Six months later, just one week before Christmas, her sister also passed away.
The next year, Jeanne’s husband Steve accompanied her to a PanCAN meeting for the Milwaukee Affiliate. They both knew they had found their calling, with Steve signing on as Media Chair and Jeanne becoming the Volunteer Chair, helping recruit supporters for their first PanCAN PurpleStride. Jeanne eventually became Affiliate Chair, where she led all efforts for the volunteers. Through the years, she has been a part of Advocacy Day, helped with fundraisers and gotten to know survivors and caregivers. She has vowed to see a day when there is early detection for patients.
Jeanne has been retired from banking since 2017 and is now enjoying retirement with her husband Steve, recently celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Together, they have traveled to 44 states, all seven continents and 45 countries. Much of that travel is with her three sons, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. Besides traveling, Jeanne enjoys gardening, doing crafts and spending time with friends and family.
Mimi Leonard is the ultimate best friend, volunteering for PanCAN in honor of her closest friend’s husband, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2018. Shortly after that, another friend passed away within two years of being diagnosed. That’s when Mimi knew she could use her voice in a bigger way.
Today, Mimi is the Advocacy Chair for PanCAN’s Colorado Affiliate, a role that puts her professional experience to use. She is retired from the Littleton, Colo., Public School system where for 33 years, she served as teacher, administrator and Coordinator of Career and Technical Education. She currently works as an independent contractor, managing an educational outreach program for the Army and teaching college classes.
In her spare time, Mimi enjoys singing, reading, swimming, being outdoors and spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren.
Tiffany Mekeel believes our lives are measured in moments, and defining moments are the ones that endure in our memories. Her defining moment came on July 14, 2017 when her beautiful, strong, and courageous mom was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. This moment upended the certainties in her life and reshaped them.
When her mom passed away September 28, 2018, she was determined to continue her mom’s battle and when the opportunity arose to serve as the Affiliate Chair for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Cleveland Affiliate, there was no question in her mind she was destined for this role.
Tiffany made a promise to her mom that she would not stop the fight against pancreatic cancer and she hasn’t. Her passion and dedication drives Tiffany to advocating and demanding better for those affected by pancreatic cancer. Tiffany is a proud and active member of the Cleveland Affiliate serving as both Social Media Chair and Affiliate Chair.
Tiffany has helped plan and execute PurpleLight, PurpleStride and other affiliate activities. She often volunteers with other PanCAN related activities and affiliations. Tiffany represented PanCAN at check presentations and has appeared on local television. Volunteering for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network gives her a huge sense of pride and empowerment. She knows her mom is smiling down on her and proud of the accomplishments she has made.
Tiffany is a wife of an extremely hardworking and supportive husband, Tim and a Jeep driving mom to two spirited, super adorable boys, Noah (age 11) and Hunter (age 8). She graduated from John Carroll University with a BA/BS in Accounting, and works full-time for local government in the Council Office. When she’s not working, Tiffany can be found spending time with her family, working out at Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) or exploring her city, the “CLE.”
Bruce Platt had never heard of pancreatic cancer until his mother was diagnosed in September of 2004. Through an online search, he found PanCAN and immediately bought purple bracelets and pins. They became an inspiration as Bruce became his mother’s caregiver and helped her through treatments and procedures.
Before her passing in July of 2009, Bruce’s mother always talked about how there was no voice for pancreatic cancer. It was then and there that Bruce promised his mother he would be that voice. His first step was to form the team Platt’s Platoon for PanCAN PurpleStride Philadelphia in the fall and attended his first Affiliate meeting in January 2010.
Bruce immediately found a family of supporters and has continued to grow his involvement. He started as the Advocacy Chair and in 2014 was awarded nationally for his efforts. One of his proudest moments was to be among the team of volunteers that helped get the Recalcitrant Cancer Act passed in 2012. Bruce eventually became the Philadelphia Affiliate Chair, leading the network in his hometown.
Bruce has a BA in Adult Development & Organization from Temple University and works for the City of Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation Department, supervising a center in north Philadelphia. He enjoys spending time with his girlfriend and friends, taking care of their dogs and coaching softball.
Tripp Razor began volunteering with PanCAN’s Raleigh-Durham Affiliate in 2015 after losing his mother to pancreatic cancer in May of that year. His first experience was attending a PurpleLight ceremony, where he met Affiliate Chair Liz Johnson, who invited him to volunteer. The next year, Tripp volunteered at PanCAN PurpleStride in the accounting tent and from there, became the PurpleStride Chair.
Tripp has a BS degree in Communications with a minor in Business from East Carolina University. He has worked in the banking industry for over a decade and currently works as a Financial Specialist for Pinnacle Financial Partners in Raleigh. Before his banking career, he coached middle and high school baseball and football and worked for the Boys and Girls Club.
In addition to serving as PurpleStride Chair, Tripp volunteers for agencies focusing on adoption and domestic violence. He is also a representative for East Carolina University’s Pirate Club to help raise money for the athletic programs. In his spare time, he enjoys going to sporting events, concerts, festivals and being uncle to his friends’ children. He is a proud supporter of the East Carolina University Pirates and the Michigan Wolverines.
Jann B. Skelton, BPharm, MBA, FAPhA is President of Silver Pennies Consulting and has three decades of demonstrated success in business strategy, facilitation, communications, and complex program implementation in the health care industry. But in addition to an impressive career resume, Skelton has been a top Team Captain for PurpleStride New York City for nearly a decade. Along with her daughter Hannah and son William, they lead their team “David’s Daredevils,” in memory of her husband David, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2013, nine months after diagnosis. Skelton remembers that he faced every day with a positive attitude – the same positivity and determination she brings to her work with PanCAN.
Skelton’s diverse professional background includes working in pharmacy practice, health care consulting, pharmaceutical services, and professional advocacy organizations. She has authored numerous professional publications in the areas of immunizations, medication administration, continuous professional development, opioid use disorder, patient safety, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. She is a West Virginia University School of Pharmacy graduate and received her MBA from George Washington University. She was named a Fellow of the American Pharmacists Association in 2020. She also serves as an elected member of her local Board of Education.
For Skelton and her kids, PurpleStride New York City is a celebration every year now, and as time has gone on, they have been surprised that their friends and family are more engaged than ever. And it shows through their incredible fundraising – more than $235,000 for research and education to fight pancreatic cancer!
Wendy Stoneberg founded the Boise Affiliate alongside her life partner, John Bradley in 2010. John was a two-year pancreatic cancer survivor when he and Wendy met and over the course of their relationship, their shared passion for patient education and advocacy helped them recruit and retain a core team of volunteers, many of whom are still actively involved today.
Relying on her professional background in project management on various nuclear projects with the Idaho National Lab, Stoneberg initially stepped into the role of Advocacy Chair. She worked diligently on behalf of Idaho patients and survivors, meeting with senators and representatives in Washington, D.C and in Idaho to advocate for the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act. Receiving notice that both senators and one representative would co-sponsor the bill is one of her proudest moments with the organization.
John’s cancer returned in 2012 and in 2014, he lost his battle after 8 ½ years. With a renewed sense of purpose, Stoneberg filled John’s seat as Affiliate Chair, a position she held until 2020. During her tenure, she was instrumental in securing long-time media and advertising partners and cultivating deep relationships with local physicians. She’s also acted as Teams and Individual Development Chair for PurpleStride and remains a key volunteer and advisor for the organization while working full time as a Community Programs Manager for Optum Idaho.
Stoneberg loves spending her free time with her two children, their spouses, her grandchildren and her friends.