Joan B. Kilar Fund

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Family and Community. Two simple words that can make all the difference in someone’s life. Yet if you asked Jackie Kilar and her teammates of the Wesleyan University Women’s Ice Hockey Team, they would tell you those two words are very important because they describe how they feel about one another and about the Middletown Community.

2016-2017 Wesleyan University Women's Hockey Team

2016-2017 Wesleyan University Women’s Hockey Team

When Jackie Kilar first arrived on campus at Wesleyan University, she couldn’t imagine how those two words would become central to her life in Middletown and her place on the Wesleyan University Women’s Ice Hockey Team. While in high school, Jackie’s mother Joan was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. Jackie’s high school years went from the usual stresses of classes, sports, and the college search to doctors appointments, radiation and chemo treatments, and finally, the grief of losing her mother.

Throughout the diagnosis and treatment, Jackie was in awe of her mother’s strength – her determination to go on with life, meet each new experience, make home as “normal” as it could be, and embrace the outpouring of support from the community as a gift to the family. During that time, Jackie not only developed a deep interest in medicine and cancer research, but she realized that family and community can be one and the same, and they can get you through anything.

Jackie Kilar with her mom Joan and her father at a cancer awareness hockey game

Jackie Kilar with her mom Joan and her father at a cancer awareness hockey game

Fast forward to Jackie’s first year at WesU in 2015 and the new friendships she developed with her teammates on the Women’s Ice Hockey Team. Jackie impressed them with her strength to move forward after such a heart-rending loss, her enthusiasm to make friends and experience life, and her determination to find ways to make a difference, to give something back. During that first year, the women, with their coaches, began to discuss ways they, too, could do something – give back to the community, share the information Jackie had learned during her mother’s illness, and help other women and families understand the importance cancer check ups.

This led them to the Community Foundation and a discussion of ways to support the Middletown community. The women have chosen to do something here, right in their own back yard, because this is their home, too, even if just for a few years. They are developing some fun ways to raise funds and cancer awareness all at the same time. The team left it to Jackie to name the Fund because it was her personal experience that got them all talking. Jackie, in turn, wanted to honor her mother and the legacy of strength, family and community she has given her children.

“During my time at Wesleyan so far, my teammates on the Women’s Ice Hockey team have gotten to know me and, through me, my mother Joan. They have been nothing less than my extended family; individuals who support me and each other; we have all been affected by my story. With my mother as the starting point and with my teammates by my side, I am excited to help other families battling cancer and give them the tools to become the strongest fighters they can be through the Joan B. Kilar Fund.” (Jackie Kilar)

Proceeds of the Joan B. Kilar Fund will support programs and services for families going through cancer treatments as well as health and well-being educational programs for the community at large.