Arensons honored for raising $725,000 for pancreatic
By Craig Rice, Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 2, 2005
up almost half of the honoree seats on stage during last
week's 2004 Jefferson Award presentation at Carnegie Music
Hall in Oakland were the Arensons, the only family to be
honored with what is considered the Noble Prize of community
Of the 11 people presented with the Jefferson Award, five
family, which once lived in Scott, was honored for its tireless
fund- raising efforts that have resulted in the collection
of more than $725,000 over 10 years and counting for research
toward a vaccine for pancreatic cancer, the cause of Nathan
S. Arenson's death at 67.
was a husband, a father and a grandfather on his last earthly
day, May 31, 1995.
Arenson, 45, son of Nathan, received the Jefferson Award
on behalf of the family. He said his father missed many
things over the past 10 years including not knowing five
of his nine grandchildren. But because of the Nathan S.
Arenson Fund for Pancreatic Cancer Research, they all know
family wanted to make a difference," said Milt, a Los
Angeles sports merchandiser. "One day, we can all look
back and know that we had something to do with helping find
a cure for pancreatic cancer."
being honored, the Arensons received a $1,000 donation from
PNC Foundation that went into the research fund, bronze
medallions and a chance to be chosen to go to the national
Jefferson Awards in Washington D.C.
1993, Nathan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after
said there was nothing they could do to save him. Not even
if they would have caught the malignant cells when they
first sprouted, and definitely not the day his skin turned
yellow from jaundice.
Arenson Gillespie, 47, daughter of Nathan, remembers the
frustrations of wanting to know more. They saw breast cancer
and colon cancer pamphlets, but little information on pancreatic
could not get any answers, and of course we were in denial
and didn't want to hear it," Lisa, a Scott resident,
says. "When they diagnosed him, it was too late. It
is just that kind of insidious disease."
National Cancer Institute estimated that 31,860 people were
diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004 and 31,270 of them
died before Jan.1, 2005.
Olivera Finn, chair and professor in the department of immunology
at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the school's
cancer institute, has been working on a vaccine for pancreatic
cancer for the last 16 years. She said information on this
type of cancer was not widely available 10 years ago because
it does not affect as many people as other cancers. Since
then, it has become easier to obtain.
before Nathan's death, his wife, Adrienne Arenson, established
the memorial fund with the thought of helping other families
in similar situations.
and Michael Arenson, Lisa's sons, suggested the Hoops for
A Cure basketball games as a means to raise money.
upcoming games on April 22 will be the 10th annual at Chartiers
Valley High School, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are once
again scheduled to play a Chartiers Valley alumni team in
the featured event.
sell shirts, hats and merchandise and all the proceeds go
the research fund, which in turn, goes to Finn.
the family interviewed several doctors, they decided that
every dollar of their efforts, without deducting one penny
for administrative cost, would be directed to Finn.
have been solely responsible up until now for maintaining
our funding for clinical research," Finn said. "Our
basic research is funded through the National Cancer Institute.
Our ability to translate that into the clinic has been very
much facilitated by the fund."
10 years ago there was little grant money available and
the Arenson fund solely supported their clinical trials,
Finn said. Grants became more available during the Clinton
administration and so the family's efforts have been used
a financial cushion ensuring the operation's continuation.
keep our program going regardless of who we have in the
White House," Finn said.
really don't think that people understand the level of effort
it takes to do what they are doing. These are people busy
with their own lives and they take time on a daily basis
to encourage people to donate."
Arensons expressed optimism that being recognized for such
a prestigious award would bring their fund a corporate sponsor,
but the family is not expecting anything except exerting
more elbow grease to help find a cure.
are a family backing [Finn] and we work hard for it,"
Lisa said. "We are not sitting there writing a check;
we are not that kind of family. We don't have that kind
of cash. We are just like everyone else."