It’s been nearly two-and-a-half years since Jeff Parker lost his battle to melanoma at the age of 25 but his friendly and caring spirit lives on through a foundation created in his name by family and friends.
“Our mission really revolves around Jeff,” said Jeff’s mother and Foxborough resident, Roberta Parker of the Jeff Parker Foundation. “He always gave back to his community. … He was just one of those people that was well known. People liked him; he was real friendly.”
Inspired by Jeff, members of the Jeff Parker Foundation are committed to helping children and families affected by cancer.
“We strive to give back the things that were most important to Jeff; helping families in financial need with children diagnosed with cancer or dealing with a family member diagnosed with cancer; scholarships for student athletes; and helping to continue the sport of Division I college wrestling.” the foundation’s mission statement reads. “We also hope to be able to make a difference in the fight against cancer by promoting “Takedown Cancer” events throughout colleges and high schools in the country. And lastly we support cancer research for the fight against one of the most deadly cancer … melanoma.”
On Friday, Nov. 16 at the Putnam Club of Gillette Stadium, The Jeff Parker Foundation will be holding its second annual Cherish the Champions Benefit Gala to raise funds for and awareness to the Jeff Parker Charitable Fund.
“This is our biggest event to raise funds and last year we raised about $45,000,” Roberta Parker said. “This year we are hoping a little more than that. This is not only to raise funds but it is also to raise awareness. One of our speakers was diagnosed with melanoma at the age of 20. She is 28 now and is trying to make kids aware of some of the symptoms and some of the signs [of melanoma] as well as skin checks and staying out of tanning beds.”
That speaker is Meghan Rothschild of the Melanoma Foundation of New England. Also speaking at Friday’s Gala will be Dave Hagan from Sherry’s House in Worcester and Dan Botsch, Jeff’s uncle, who will speak on behalf of the Jeff Parker Charitable Fund.
The event will include a dinner buffet, live and silent auctions featuring tickets to Patriots, Celtics and Red Sox games, an autographed Rob Gronkowski Patriots jersey and autographed footballs among other items. There will also be raffle baskets and dancing to music from DJ Steve Bishop. The event lasts until midnight and tickets are $60 per person and can be purchased here: http://jeffparkerfoundation.org/gala-2.html
“It’s a fun night,” Roberta Parker said.
It’s also special.
“For me personally, it makes me feel closer to Jeff,” Roberta Parker said. … “I think it is something [Jeff] would be really proud of. That’s one of the things we try to make sure of and keep in mind. Jeff always gave back and was a leader and I think the fund is doing a lot of good things.”
Roberta Parker said she hopes the Gala delivers a clear message to youth: Stay out of tanning beds and know how to detect melanoma early.
“They say your chances of getting melanoma increases by 75 percent when you use tanning beds,” Roberta Parker said. “Melanoma is very treatable if you get it early.”
Also expected to be at Friday’s Gala is a Derma-scan, which shows you your own skin damage caused by the sun.
The money earned from Friday’s Gala will go to scholarships awarded to Franklin and Foxborough High School students in Jeff’s name, Sherry’s House in Worcester and families in need of financial help that are affected by cancer.
“I think everyone [in one way or another] has been touched by cancer,” said Roberta Parker. … “We can really make a difference not only with melanoma but helping people financially with a terrible disease that is difficult to deal with, especially with children.”
For more information, visit the Jeff Parker Foundation’s website at http://jeffparkerfoundation.org/index.html.