Cousins Erika Rech and Mike Ruane from Middletown were honored as “New Jersey Heroes” for their work to help breast cancer patients and their families cope with the burdens of the disease.
Rech and Ruane, both 19, received the award from New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie on Oct. 28 at Drumthwacket, the governor’s residence. The teens launched their charity, Breast Friends Forever (recently renamed Breast Intentions), when they were 15 years old, after Erika’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The organization provides financial support for items ranging from wigs and prosthetics to medications and transportation. This year, the pair plans to open five chapters of the charity in other states.
“I am so inspired by Erika and Mike’s compassion and commitment to improve the lives of others in their community,” said Mrs. Christie. “Their work is giving hope, courage and peace of mind to women and their families who are facing a multitude of hardships in their battle with breast cancer. In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am proud to name Erika Rech and Mike Ruane New Jersey Heroes.”
“The more we learned about breast cancer, and the treatment, costs and pain it causes, the more compelled we felt to help out families struggling with this disease,” said Rech, now a sophomore at Villanova University.
“Erika and I vowed to form an organization to help families navigate through a cancer diagnosis by providing resources and emotional and financial support,” added Ruane, a Rutgers sophomore.