Amid the congenial atmosphere and live-auction fun at the 10th annual Wings of Hope “Evening of Hope,” there were some serious facts about pancreatic cancer. There was also also a “wow” true story from SR-71 Blackbird pilot Brian Shul. But as the night went on, one thing stood out: Among this crowd, Maureen Shul is the emerging candidate for the next presidential election. After speakers praised the Wings of Hope founder and inaugural mayor of Castle Pines, they also mentioned what a great president she would be. When she took her turn at the podium, first she apologized for the event running long. Then, she deadpanned: “Volunteers, I’d like you all to stay late, after the event, and make sure everything is cleaned up for my presidential campaign meeting.”

(l to r): Edie Marks, Director of CU Cancer Center Richard Schulick and wife Cristina Cenciarelli

On Friday, Sept. 23, around 300 supporters converged on Exploration of Flight Hangar at Centennial Airport, the ideal location for keynote speaker Brian Shul, retired USAF major and one of only 93 people to pilot the SR-71, the top-secret Blackbird–the world’s fastest, highest-flying aircraft ever built. Gary Corbett led a live auction of 17 quickly sold items. The evening’s other speakers were: Melissa East, 14-year pancreatic cancer survivor; Cathy Noon, former Centennial mayor and 4-year pancreatic cancer survivor; Carlo Marchetti, PhD, research assistant professor at CU Anschutz Medical Campus and Wings of Hope research grant recipient; Todd Pitts, director of the GI Translational Research Lab, associate professor at CU Anschutz Medical Campus and Wings of Hope research grant recipient; Richard Schulick, MD, MBA, director of the CU Cancer Center; and Maureen Shul.

Don Sheehan (left), Centennial Council member, with Cathy and Jim Noon…Cathy is former mayor of Centennial and a 4-year pancreatic cancer survivor.

One of the more sobering statistics of pancreatic cancer is the fact there are so few survivors of this disease to tell their story and advocate for increased research. Founded in 2012 by Maureen Shul after losing her mother Blanche and brother Victor, Wings of Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Research is a non-profit foundation dedicated to raising awareness and funding for pancreatic cancer research and programs at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. In February 2013, Wings of Hope and the cancer center entered into a partnership, with both entities combining efforts to have the CU Cancer Center become the regional hub and national destination for pancreatic cancer research.

The foundation’s focused effort not only helps better define priorities, but also makes a definitive statement about the critical urgency and need for pancreatic cancer research to continue at an accelerated pace. An all-volunteer effort, Wings of Hope has raised approximately $2 million, all of which has been provided to the CU Cancer Center in the form of grants to fund pancreatic cancer research. For more information about Wings of Hope, go to: WingsofHopePCR.org. To learn more about CU Cancer Center, visit: https://medschool.cuanschutz.edu/colorado-cancer-center.