Marisa Renee Lee, founder and president The Pink Agenda, talks about The Pink Agenda as a non-profit organization does for breast cancer research.
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Marisa Renee Lee: Pink Agenda is an organization of young professionals who have essentially made it their mission and goal to raise money primarily for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. We feel that those two organizations are the most effective and efficient breast cancer nonprofits in the world. We believe that our generation has the ability to contribute to finding a cure for breast cancer and to helping people who are currently struggling with this disease but because we’re young, we aren’t oncologists, we don’t work for these direct care service programs and we aren’t researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, our best bet is to just raise the money, raise the awareness amongst people our age and give it to the people who can use it most effectively. What inspired you to found the Pink Agenda? Marisa Renee Lee: I went out one night with one of my friends and had a couple of drinks, came home, watched a really dramatic episode of Grey’s Anatomy and at the time, my mom was battling stage IV breast cancer. She had an eight centimeter mass in her breast. It was all up and down her spinal column, all her leg bones, her arms, her ribcage, hips, everything and within her chest cavity and all of her lymph nodes, so fairly far in terms of progression. I had spent a year at home after college helping my family to adjust to this diagnosis and working and just spending time with my mom and trying to be super type A; organize and manage a situation that is somewhat unmanageable. At this point, I had moved to New York and I was working and still doing this balancing act of calling doctors and running uptown to Sloan when my parents had visits there and keeping in touch with the latest research and trying to stay on top of everything while working. While I was in the city, I felt like I was having a great time and I was enjoying my job and it was tough balancing the mom situation but I still felt as though there was something else I wanted to be involved in. I didn’t know what and I didn’t want it to just be this thing to put on your resume for business school. I wanted to do something that I was really passionate about and really excited about and this episode just showed, I apologize for those who aren’t Grey’s Anatomy’s fans but it showed George’s dad on the operating table and the inside of his body, what it looked like with this cancer. At the time, I hadn’t really made the connection between what cancer looks like, what cancer is and what is literally going on inside of my mother’s body right now and that did it for me and I was a wreck but woke up the next day having made the decision that I was going to throw a party to raise money for breast cancer. The party turned into an organization when someone tried to write us a check for $5,000.00 and I realized I couldn’t accept the check personally because that’s kind of weird and there was no one else for them to write the check to so, 72 hours later, we were an organization officially recognized by New York State. What’s wrong with non-profits? Marisa Renee Lee: It’s pretty interesting. I was turned off by the nonprofit world and made the decision to move into finance during my senior year in college because I felt as though there were too many nonprofits, a lot of inefficiencies, a lot of people who just, as far as I was concerned, weren’t working hard enough on behalf of these really important causes and on behalf of people who really need and could use their help. I decided that the best thing for me to do would be to make money and be around people who were making lots of money and get them to give it away but give it away responsibly. That’s why what we’ve created isn’t a typical nonprofit. We don’t provide services really. All we look to do is provide individuals with resources via our website and direct contact with me if they have questions and a loved one’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer and we give money to the people who we feel