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'Hometown Hero' Organizes Cancer Network

Michelle Monhart is a Bay Area organizer for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network; she promotes June 9 fund-raising vineyard walk in Napa Valley.

The purple-shirted activists and donators on behalf of pancreatic cancer research are pointing toward a fund-raising walk through the vineyards June 9 in the Napa Valley.

In fact, it's a Walnut Creek activist — Michelle Monhart — out front pointing the way.

While her father was struggling with pancreatic cancer in Ohio eight years ago, Monhart noticed there wasn't a Bay Area affiliate for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Monhart said, "I just started Googling and I just couldn't believe what I found" — that there wasn't a Bay Area affiliate.

Some people would have shrugged. Monhart rolled up her sleeves. After a period of grieving from the death of her dad, she organized a Bay Area branch of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Her dad, David Monhart Sr., was a retired Marine, a "strong guy" who didn't want many people to know that he had pancreatic cancer.

For her organizational skill and zeal, Monhart was recently named one of 28 "hometown heroes" showcasing community stalwarts by the Bay Area News Group and Comcast.

When the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network invited her to form a Bay Area affiliate, Monhart said, "I found out I had a lot of leadership skills I didn't know I had." The affiliate comprised nine counties that have since split into two areas: Silicon Valley and the East Bay.

The need is great. Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of 6 percent, much lower than lung, colon, breast and prostate cancer (those are the top five causes of cancer death in the last decade). "It's so grim," said Monhart. "The stats haven't changed largely in 40 years."

This year, an estimated 44,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the U.S., and about 38,000 will die from the disease, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Some of the important research that needs funding is done in the Bay Area, Monhart said, at the University of California at San Francisco and Stanford University.

Mark your calendar

June 9 is a fund-raising and awareness walk at the Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena. Adults register for $35 and kids for $15. Many people form teams in memory of a friend or relative with pancreatic cancer. Last year, there were more than 780 walkers who raised more than $130,000, Monhart said.

Also on the schedule is a Pancreatic Cancer Symposium May 11 at the Westin San Francisco Airport.

Todd Cohen April 12, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Way to go Michelle! We need more people like her joining the fight against pancreatic cancer.
Judy Lloyd April 15, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Michelle Monhart has been a great leader of these efforts to raise awareness for Pancreatic Cancer. You can learn more about our efforts to advocate for a strategic plan before Congress at this link. Consider joining us in Washington, D.C. http://www.pancan.org/section_get_involved/advocate/annual_lobby_day.php

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