Marianne and her daughter Claire

In my years working for The Children’s Cancer Foundation, Inc. (CCF) I never feel more devastated, yet determined, than when I meet with parents who have lost their child to cancer. The strength of these family members is humbling, and I continue to be in awe of how such unimaginable loss can take shape in the form of activism. On more than one occasion, I’ve met those that have chosen to found an organization dedicated to prevent others from experiencing a similar tragic loss.

In early 2020, I had the privilege to meet Marianne Banister and learn more about her organization, the Claire Marie Foundation. Most anyone from the Baltimore area is familiar with Marianne, as she was an anchor for WBAL News 11 for more than 15 years. However, this foundation arose from personal tragedy. Marianne Banister and Rocky Wagonhurst, together with their oldest daughter, Hillary, created this special foundation after losing their 17- year-old daughter, Claire, to adolescent melanoma.

When Marianne’s daughter was diagnosed at 14, the family was blindsided. They’d been vigilant in prevention of sun exposure with sunscreen and skin checks. However, Claire had a mole on her ankle that changed during puberty, and, by the time it was removed, the cancer had already spread.

Melanoma is the second most common cancer in adolescents and the most common cancer in young adults under 30. While UV rays and sun exposure are the primary cause, melanoma can also arise due to genetics or hormonal changes, as happens during puberty and pregnancy.

The Claire Marie Foundation has one very specific goal: preventing adolescent and young adult melanoma through skin cancer screening. Since 2016, The Claire Marie Foundation has screened 1,300 young people in Maryland and South Carolina. Of those, 16% required biopsy or further evaluation for suspicion of melanoma with early-stage melanomas detected in two of the patients. Young women who are living healthy lives today due to early screenings can be viewed here: Lindsay and Cassidy and Molly

Board Member and melanoma survivor Jacqueline Smith receives the 2021 grant at the CCF Gala.

CCF’s support enables the Claire Marie Foundation to offer free screening days throughout our community at locations including: Johns Hopkins Dermatology and Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore that directly serves Baltimore’s urban population — individuals who typically have limited access to dermatologists.

CCF’s funding directly supports the cost of these planned screenings. We are thrilled to join forces today to ensure free skin screenings are available to as many adolescent and young adults in the region as possible. CCF is proud to be a Mission Partner of the Claire Marie Foundation and looks forward to protecting and saving young lives through crucial screenings.

In partnership,

Tasha Museles
The Children’s Cancer Foundation, Inc.

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