CONWAY — Jen’s Friends Foundation will be recognized with this year's Bob Morrell Award for civic entrepreneurship for its commitment to caring for those battling cancer.
The award will be presented to board members of the non-profit at the Mt. Washington Valley Economic Council's 28th annual business meeting and dinner on Nov. 15 at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort in North Conway.
Jac Cuddy, executive director of the economic council said, “Jen’s Friends is a tremendous volunteer organization that exemplifies the qualities of giving back to the community that Bob Morrell and his family showed. It is fitting to honor them this milestone anniversary year, given that they were founded 20 years ago."
In addition, the Bruni Young Leadership Award will be given to a professional under age 45 who exemplifies past MWVEC board member John Bruni’s involvement in community affairs. The inaugural award last year went to Barbara Reilly, co-founder of Legal Eagles LLC. This year's recipient is community leader/attorney Leslie Leonard of Cooper, Cargill Chant of North Conway.
MWVEC Board Member of the Year and MWVEC Volunteer of the Year also will be announced.
A cocktail reception begins at 5 p.m. The business meeting is at 5:45 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m., followed by the awards. Reservation deadline is Friday. Tickets are $50. Call the MWVEC at (603) 447-6622 or email Susie Hall-Kennett at email@example.com to reserve.
Jen's Friends President Erik Chandler of Chandler Property Management and Joann Daly, of Soyfire Candle, first vice president, were thrilled to learn the group had been selected to get the award, which was first awarded in 1998 to local ski development pioneers Kay Reed and Betty Whitney.
“Having known Jennifer Hill and the Hill family, they can be proud that Jen’s Friends has been selected for this honor,” Chandler said earlier this week. “I lost my mother, Nancy Chandler, to the disease, and it brings me joy to be able to help others via Jen’s Friends. Bob and Ruth Morrell, and then their son, Stoney, did so much for our valley.”
Daly echoed his comments. “One of the best things to do in life is to give back,” she said. “Jen’s Friends Cancer Foundation is the epitome of this. To be able to help families each month as they struggle to make ends meet while dealing with a cancer diagnosis — what better way to serve our community?”
Currently serving 66 local cancer patients and their families, Jen’s Friends since its founding in fall 1998 has served nearly 400 local patients.
The organization was created by Jen's brother Doug Hill and college fraternity alumni friends to assist his 26-year-old sister, who was battling cancer. Daughter of Leona and Arthur Hill, she was a graduate student and part-time U.S. Forest Service employee with no health insurance. When she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, her brother and friends came up with the idea of a fundraising climb up Mount Cranmore.
As the Jen's Friends website notes, Jen was open to the idea but only under the condition that they also help others facing similar challenges.
Jen was too ill to be part of the first climb in September 1998, which raised an amazing $68,000, but she got to listen to the live broadcast from the mountain.
Jen Hill lost her battle against glioblastoma multiforme later that fall.
Over the years, through the climb and other fundraisers, gifts and bequests, Jen’s Friends has raised approximately $3.5 million. The entirely volunteer-run organization annually budgets $218,000, or $18,000 a month, to help with patients’ living expenses.
Other annual fundraisers include a costumed scavenger hunt, a golf tournament, a pizza night, Fryeburg Fire's car show; and "message" amulets created by Susan Eastman-Walton of Boulder, Colo., sister of the late Steve Eastman and this writer.
Some businesses such as Fields of Ambrosia, Profile Subaru and Midas Muffler, to name a few, make contributions from their sales throughout the year.
The Morrell Award selection committee is made up of Cuddy, Gail Paine, Chuck Henderson and Tom Eastman. Former Morrell Award recipient Phil Gravink, now of Saco, Maine, is an adviser.
The Bob Morrell Award recognizes the qualities and values exemplified by Morrell (1920-98), co-founder of Story Land and Heritage-New Hampshire.
Recent recipients include: Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Janice Crawford, 2012; the Sherman Family Farm and Weston's Farm in 2013; Dwight A. Smith, founder and former general manager of the Conway Scenic Railroad, and Russ Seybold, then president and general manager of the Conway Scenic Railroad, 2014; former Attitash President Phil Gravink in 2015; David Peterson and Peter Edwards of Zeb’s Charitable Foundation/Zeb’s General Store in 2016; and in 2017, Dot Seybold, wife of Russ Seybold and then co-owner of the CSRR before selling it earlier this year, and general manager of Settlers Green. She is also a volunteer for several local organizations, including president of the Vaughan Center and past president of Starting Point.