About the Foundation

To memorialize the life of Helen Knoll

Inspiration and Legacy

The Helen Knoll Foundation started in 2006 to memorialize the life of Helen Knoll, who passed away at 48 years of age after two long battles with breast cancer.

The Helen Knoll Foundation is determined to help women of any age receive information and affordable access to the latest cancer screening technologies. The Foundation does this in the hopes of saving the lives of women across the country.

The Founders Vision

Our Goals

  • Mission

The Helen Knoll Foundation mission is to prevent breast cancer by empowering young women through risk awareness education, advocacy and access to age appropriate ascreenings.

  • Vision

Stop breast cancer before it Starts, Prevention is No diagnosis.

  • Values

Our work to stop breast cancer before it starts is guided by our core principles.

  • Respect

For young women and their ability to save their own lives given the tools and resources they need.

  • Community

The Helen Knoll Foundation exists to be a resource for our community and works to build strong, wide-ranging coalitions in support of our mission from the top down and bottom up.

  • Excellence

we are committed to the highest standards of excellence both in the quality of the evidence based, rigorously researched information we disseminate and our adherence to best practices in management and operations.

  • Wellness

A woman’s health is comprehensive, not just isolated to the breasts.

Turning a cancer loss into a healing legacy

The Founder

She inherited her mother’s blond hair and knack for multi-tasking. And if everything goes according to plan, she will be following her mother’s footsteps into the health-care profession.

In many ways, Laura Knoll is her mother’s daughter. So when Helen Knoll died of breast cancer at the age of 48, Laura did as she was taught. She mourned, and then she got to work.

“My mother was always helping people, and that profoundly shaped our family’s outlook on life,” the 24-year-old Knoll said of her mother, an SDSU graduate who was an emergency-room nurse in San Diego. “I think people thought it was pretty strange that a teenager would start something like a foundation, but I really felt like something had to be done.”

It started with Helen’s funeral. In lieu of flowers, Laura hoped friends and loved ones could honor her legacy by donating to a fund that would help women detect breast cancer early. Helen Knoll received her first breast-cancer diagnosis at 35; most women don’t take their first medically recommended mammogram until they turn 40.

But when Laura looked for an organization that specialized in early cancer detection and prevention for young women, she couldn’t find one. She and her father, David, cofounded the Helen Knoll Foundation shortly thereafter. Laura was 18 years old.

Since then, the small nonprofit foundation has held 12 education events, sponsored special activities for 12 families dealing with terminal cancer, and subsidized 100 early-cancer screenings for women in need.

“We are looking at a population of young people who sometimes feel like they are invincible, and this is a very good way of educating our community about something that could happen to anyone,” said Aaron Bruce, SDSU’s chief diversity officer. “Laura is very passionate about the cause, which in turn makes other people passionate about what she is trying to achieve.”

Just five percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S. every year occur in women under 40, so for many of the “ThinkPink” attendees, the idea of early breast cancer detection is not on their health radar. For 24-year-old Knoll, it is part of being wiser in the ways of cancer than anyone her age should have to be. As they watched their mother’s struggles, Laura and her younger sister, Christina, learned that knowledge can be power, and education became their mission.

“I was very young when she was first diagnosed, so her battle was a big piece of my life growing up,” said Knoll, who grew up in Jamul, got her undergraduate degree at UCLA and currently attends Cal State San Bernardino. Christina is a sophomore at UC Berkeley.

“It is frightening for me to think about, because the younger women are when they get breast cancer the more invasive it is. (And the more likely it is to be genetic.) That puts me and my sister at risk, and that’s scary. But knowing what my risks are helps me know where I stand.”

Like her mother, who balanced work and family and being forever on-call for friends, neighbors and anyone who needed help, Laura has become an expert juggler. In addition to running the foundation with her father and a small group of volunteers, she is studying for her master’s degree in clinical counseling and working with children with autism.

“In some ways, I’m following my Mom into the caring profession,” Knoll said. And what she really cares about is the future. Her future, her sister’s future, and the futures of other young women and the families who shouldn’t have to go on without them.

“We started this organization so that someone else wouldn’t have to lose a mom or a sister or a best friend. With this event, if we could help just one person, it would be worth it. We want women to be able to catch this before it’s too late. It doesn’t have to be this way, and that’s the power of what we’re doing.”

*[reprint with edits – – http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-turning-cancer-loss-into-healing-legacy-2012oct13-htmlstory.html]