Making a difference in the world is quite a big task for anyone, but Ashburn resident Lisa Kaminsky Millar is managing to do that while taking care of her family and working three jobs. Lisa works in payroll for AeroAstro and teaches online courses for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s hotel/restaurant management program. But it is as the head of The Brad Kaminsky Foundation for Brain Tumor Research (TBKF), founded as a tribute and promise to her brother Brad, that has given her life a purpose and Brad’s death meaning.
It started in 1999. Lisa had been doing consulting work after the birth of her first son, when she got the terrible news that her brother had been diagnosed with a terminal brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme. At the time, Brad was 28, an Assistant DA in Bucks County Pennsylvania with 2 young children.
Lisa and her family jumped into action, making calls and meeting with the top doctors at the nation’s top hospitals. The conclusions were the same: not enough was known, not enough research was being done and there was no known cure. But like the Kaminsky family, these doctors were also willing to keep fighting. Working with specialists from Duke Medical Center, the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins, Brad was put in clinical trials testing new cancer drugs.
Despite the brave fight, Brad lost his life in February of 2001 and with his death the Brad Kaminsky Foundation for Brain Tumor Research was born. Lisa says, “This is my way of coping. I would not be where I am today without it.”
Lisa is not alone. She has the support and love of those closest to her: Husband David, a CPA, aids in the financial aspects of running a large foundation, and their children Bryce, 11; Bennett, 8; and Danica, 4 take part in the effort. Four years ago, Bryce started his own annual fundraiser for TBKF, running a lemonade stand with his friends outside the Ashburn Village Giant. They usually collect $800-$1000 in just a few hours. He recently received an award at his middle school for his volunteerism.
As a family, they take part in many fundraisers during the year, including going to California for the Annual Heroes of Hope Race for Research and the local golf tournament and Monte Carlo casino night. Around the holidays, TBKF publishes a cookbook fi lled with recipes and dedications from and for cancer patients. Lisa’s family helps compile the cookbooks and try out the recipes. Since 2001, the TBKF has raised over $300,000 to help fund research for a cure.
TBKF has recently united with other brain tumor foundations to start the Grey Ribbon Campaign, a national branding campaign (greyribboncrusade.org). Their goal is to make the grey ribbon as recognizable as the pink breast cancer ribbon.
When not raising money, you’ll find the family ice skating, playing laser tag, watching movies or bowling. Lisa, a lifelong tap dancer, still takes classes, and Danica takes ballet. When asked how she balances everything, Lisa laughs and says, “I feel very guided from forces from above. Brad was loud in life and he’s very loud in the afterlife.”
For more information contact: tbkf.org
1. How do you define Modern Motherhood?
Modern Motherhood, to me, means being committed to making your own life, the lives of your family members and the rest of the world, a little bit better, all in a day’s work. Also, the slogan, Improvise, Adapt and Overcome comes to mind
2. Did you ever regret your decision to continue working/stay home?
I do both so there are no regrets. I see how both sides have pros and cons and ultimately you have to do what works best for your family.
3. What is your guilty pleasure?
Haagen Daaz Rum Raisin Ice Cream. I also never met a potato chip that I could resist.
4. What quality do you admire in other moms?
The ability to stay calm amongst the chaos. Those who are impeccably organized and those who can laugh at themselves and don’t take everything so seriously.
5. Do you have a favorite clothing store/designer?
I don’t usually have time to shop for me, but my favorite designer is Carmen Marc Valvo. He, along with Neiman Marcus, did a Fashion for a Cure event for our foundation. He is a cancer survivor himself, has a huge heart and is so talented. I respect him as a human and admire his work.
6. What movie(s) make you cry?
Umm…Any movie with a happy ending that has to do with family and LOVE. I just finished watching Hotel for Dogs with my son and cried at the end . I especially love A League of Their Own, Akeelah and the Bee, Peter Pan (the real one, as my kids call it), Forrest Gump and Ghost.
7. What’s your family’s favorite meal?
Seafood: We love fresh fish, crabs and sushi. We always enjoy going to the Hibachi type restaurants.
8. Do you have a date night? Where do you go?
We try and get out for a date night whenever possible, but it isn’t a regular occurrence. Typically we go to Lansdowne Resort and enjoy a nice bottle of wine and a quiet dinner.
9. How do you keep sanity in your marriage?
Sanity? What’s that? We accept that things are insane and just try and go with the flow, enjoying the ride.
11. Give us your favorite ‘mom-ism.’
Something my mom use to always say to me. “Be nice to people and they will be nice to you.”
Allison Jones is a writer and mother of two sons, Holden and Harrison. A graduate of York College of Pennsylvania, she is also advisor to The Student Sun, a student generated newspaper in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Her interests include reading, films, travelling, and spending time with her family. She is a connoisseur of all things French and extremely proud to be part of the I AM MODERN family.