University City

University City woman puts strength, resilience toward cancer fight

Diane Glenn exemplifies strength and resilience. She has endured some tough challenges in life, but she uses her experience to help others.

She and her husband, Michael, a Charlotte native, moved to Charlotte in 2001, after they both had served in the Army. They settled in with two children and later had one more child. The Glenn family lives in the University City area.

In 2006, Diane Glenn was diagnosed with breast cancer. With her faith in God, medical treatments and the support of family and friends, she beat the disease.

In 2007, on her 39th birthday, Glenn believed that her birthday gift was being alive. So, she planned a special birthday celebration, asking attendees to donate money to the American Cancer Society, rather than giving her a typical birthday gift.

Glenn believed the society had been there for her, assisting with many needs during her breast cancer experience.

“Since I was a beneficiary of their services, I wanted to give back to the American Cancer Society,” she said.

But Glenn did not stop there. In 2008, she took her 40th birthday celebration to the community. She had a vision to do more for others.

Glenn partnered with the society and the Presbyterian Hospital Foundation. She also received a lot of support from her church, University City Church of God in Christ, as well as family and friends.

“From there … the event took a life of its own,” Glenn said. “It included dinner, music, entertainment, a speaker and survivors. It was a night to celebrate survivorship and help others.”

In 2009, she partnered with the Levine Cancer Institute (formerly the Carolinas Healthcare Foundation). The parties (now called galas) were held in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Glenn’s effort raised thousands of dollars and made financial donations to local and national partners. They also provided assistance to cancer patients (and their caregivers) experiencing financial hardship as a result of their diagnoses.

Some of the donations helped offset expenses for prescriptions, rent, utilities and insurance copayments. Caregivers were given gas cards and invitations to special outings.

Glenn said the driving force behind the foundation is to share education and awareness.

She shares her story of hope and healing along with education and advocacy. She has reached women of all demographics, encouraging them to be proactive in breast health care.

Glenn does all of that while working full time for a financial services company.

In 2011, Glenn received 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for her project, which is called The Gift of Life Foundation. The Christian-based organization has a small board of directors to help with all the work.

But that same year, on Thanksgiving Day, tragedy struck the Glenn family again. They got the call that their 22-year-old son, Justin, had been shot to death. The loss was almost more than she could bear.

“I had to heal and recover from that … even more so than breast cancer,” she said.

Two young menwere convicted in Glenn’s death.

Glenn openly discusses her heartbreak from the loss. She said counseling helped her process emotions. As she and her family dealt with grief and loss, their church stepped up to host the Gift of Life Foundation gala in 2012. The church also gave her the Spirit of Life Award.

In 2013, Glenn continued her effort to educate others about breast health care.

“There was very little formal fundraising last year because of my limited capacity after the loss of my son and the extensive planning involved,” Glenn said. She said her church provided financial support again to help continue the mission. There was also other local financial support.

On Nov. 9, the Gift of Life Foundation will host its 2014 Benefit Gala at the Renaissance Charlotte Hotel. This year it will have a two-part mission.

First, in memory of her son, the organization will launch an expanded mission to help African-American young men.

“I want to help reduce the mortality rate of African-American men between the ages of 16 and 24 through education, empowerment, college scholarship and mentorship,” Glenn said.

The gala speaker will be Tyrone Flowers, founder of Higher Mpact, a community-based organization in Kansas City, Mo., designed to help high-risk urban youth become leaders.

Flowers was shot by a member of his high school basketball team two weeks before graduation; as a result he will use a wheelchair for life. Flowers went on to earn his diploma, a bachelor’s degree and a juris doctorate. He has dedicated his life to helping youth.

Glenn said, “Tyrone Flowers exemplifies what we want to show. He is a survivor.”