Before Family Reach Foundation was incorporated in 2003, the organization operated as the “Colangelo/Morello-Wiatrak Cancer Fund.” The Fund was founded as a joint effort in 1996 by the families of Christopher Colangelo and Kristine Morello-Wiatrak. Christopher lost his battle with neuroblastoma at the age of 11 in 1981, and Kristine died in 1995 at the age of 27 after a year of fighting Ewing’s sarcoma, a pediatric-type cancer.
Shortly after Christopher’s death, the Colangelo family began a relationship with Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York to help families with the financial and emotional burdens of dealing with pediatric cancers. Over the years, the Colangelos offered special attention to families requiring palliative care, home health assistance, and other needs in the final days of their children’s lives.
Kristine and her husband Chris had a similar vision during Kristine’s fight against Ewing’s sarcoma. They both were astounded by the plethora of secondary costs and burdens that mount during treatment – from transportation to cancer centers, to special nutrition needs, to day care. They witnessed how families struggled to keep up with the enormous, everyday challenges of helping their loved-ones fight cancer, while managing the variety of financial pressures that mount during the treatment period. Kristine, before she died, agreed with her husband Chris that they should create a fund to help families cope with these financial pressures, and allow them to focus their emotions on the healing of loved ones.
In 1996, the families of Christopher and Kristine, already good friends, decided to meld their efforts together into one fund. After seven years of grass-roots efforts and successful fundraising to help families primarily at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Columbia, the founders launched Family Reach Foundation as a formal 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2003. Since that time, Family Reach has generated over $2 million in gross contributions through annual events, special programs, individual donations and corporate partners. Monies have been distributed to help hundreds of families fighting cancers to help pay for critical non-medical and medical expenses. Family Reach now serves the needs of families through several prominent hospitals on the East and West coasts including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.