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A Legacy of Success: Team Elbo and Team Patio Reach $100,000 Milestone for Melanoma Research

It all started with Noreen O’Neill and a vision that would build bridges between scientists, doctors, and patients. Diagnosed with melanoma in 1996, Noreen began approaching the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to advocate for melanoma research, while seeking other avenues of legislation alongside Dr. Meenhard Herlyn, Director of Wistar’s Melanoma Research Center. After her death in 2000, Noreen’s legacy became the Noreen O’Neill Foundation for Melanoma Research, which would eventually be housed at Wistar. Noreen’s sister, Kate O’Neill, introduced Noreen’s cause to Eleanor Armstrong, who had also been diagnosed with melanoma in 1996. Eleanor was inspired by Noreen’s battle, and more importantly, Noreen’s call to action.

In 2016, Eleanor organized a walk and fundraising drive to carry on Noreen’s legacy and raise awareness and support for melanoma research at Wistar. Inviting friends, family, and neighbors, Eleanor also enlisted fellow melanoma survivor Pat Dean to the cause, and the rest is history. On October 15, 2023, the 8th Annual Team Elbo & Team Patio Melanoma Walk took place on a sunny Sunday afternoon in South Philadelphia. Eleanor and Pat’s community raised over $16,000, bringing the total raised to $100,000 since Eleanor started the tradition. Dr. Herlyn and Kate O’Neill, alongside Wistar melanoma researchers and staff members, were happy to participate in the celebratory atmosphere.

When asked why she continues to organize the melanoma walk and fundraising drive, Eleanor shared “I read the thank you letters and cards I receive every year and think, this is why I do it. Those personal notes, and even text messages from family telling me, ‘I just went to the dermatologist. I’m good.’ I don’t want this event to end because I’m a survivor and I don’t feel like skin cancer, melanoma in particular, gets the attention it should.” Melanoma is the most serious skin cancer, and women aged 49 and under are more likely to develop melanoma than any other cancer except breast and thyroid cancers. The estimated five-year survival rate of patients whose melanoma is detected early is over 99%, yet the number of melanoma deaths is expected to increase in 2024. Awareness and funding for research that will lead to new treatments are vital.*

Eleanor never imagined how much of an impact she could make on melanoma research at Wistar: “Never in a million years would I have thought we would get to $100,000. I didn’t have a vision; I just knew we would do it every year.”

The Wistar Institute thanks Eleanor, Team Elbo, and Team Patio for their steadfast support of melanoma research. We’ll see you next year!

*Skin Cancer Foundation – Facts & Statistics