Tackling the risks of fun in the sun

Jackie Rosner

By Jackie Rosner
Jackie Rosner is a field communications specialist with MassMutual.
Posted on Aug 5, 2019

Most Midwesterners welcome summer with open arms after long winters and lake-effect snow. Manny Amezcua, who heads up MassMutual Great Lakes, sees the change in seasons as another opportunity to educate people about melanoma, as well as its prevention and treatment, because for him, it’s personal.

The Melanoma Research Foundation’s (MRF's) goal is to eradicate melanoma through research, education, and advocating for the melanoma community.

As a member of MRF’s national board of directors, Amezcua, whose wife was diagnosed with melanoma while she was pregnant with their first child, brings his unique perspective when making decisions to advance the nonprofit’s mission. He has chaired and participated in multiple MRF fundraising events and contributed personally and financially, but considers his role as the spouse of a survivor his most crucial.

“My wife, Samantha, is a survivor,” Amezcua said. “Our family wasn’t prepared for her diagnosis or her treatment and I wasn’t prepared to support her the way she needed. It was a learning curve for both of us.”

In addition to research and education, MRF has resources available to help patients and their families manage diagnosis and treatment.

Platinum Award recipient

Amezcua and his wife are sharing their story to raise awareness and secure funding for additional research.

“Melanoma doesn’t discriminate by age, gender, ethnic background, geography, or socioeconomic status,” Amezcua said. “Anyone who has skin is at risk. We want people to understand the harmful effects of sun exposure and teach them that they can make safer choices.”

For his work with MRF, nearly 200 hours logged in 2018 alone, Amezcua was awarded the 2019 Community Service Award by the MassMutual Foundation. As a result, the MRF will receive $25,000 from the foundation. The grant will be used to further research and promote education.

In 2019, MassMutual Foundation awarded 32 grants, including two $25,000 Platinum Awards, 15 $10,000 Gold Awards, and 15 Silver $5,000 Awards to eligible applicants. The winners were notified in June.

To date, MRF’s research has led to the development of 14 FDA-approved drugs that are used to effectively treat melanoma, and have shown promise in treating other types of cancers.

Acting on passion

Amezcua is optimistic about the future. “Until we find a cure, MRF will work tirelessly to educate patients, caregivers, and physicians about prevention, diagnosis, and treatment,” he said. “Every person I meet is another opportunity to bring awareness to melanoma.”

Amezcua’s involvement with MRF began after his wife’s diagnosis, but when he decided to give back, he did so wholeheartedly. Beginning with the support of his general agent, Ric Alfonso, and peers at his firm in Chicago, he carried his philanthropic spirit with him when he transferred to Michigan. He encourages people to get involved and support the causes for which they have passion.

Preparing for the future

Amezcua and his wife are setting a good example at home, and said that honesty has been the best policy with his family.

“The kids just want to go out and play, not wait and apply sunscreen,” he said. “But because we explained that our family is battling a disease and how prevention is critical, the kids understand. I have learned so much from MRF; my goal is to share that knowledge with as many people as possible.”

He said that they have added a “sun station” at their mudroom door that is filled with sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and umbrellas, for everyone to use as protection, regardless of the time of year. His children have gotten into the habit of protecting themselves and even explain to their friends how important it is to be careful when outside.

Amezcua’s son, Atlas, has been involved in melanoma research and fundraising since before he was born. “He has joined me onstage during our annual gala,” he said. “He knows how important our message is and will grow up advocating on behalf of future generations.”

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