Donor Stories

Barness Family

For three generations, the Barness family has been tireless advocates for cancer research and patient care in Philadelphia. Starting with parents the late Irma and Herbert Barness, continuing with sisters Nancy and Lynda Barness, and now keeping the tradition of philanthropy going, Jennifer and Daniel Stern – the Abramson Cancer Center is grateful for the many generations who help sustain our mission!

In 1993, sisters Lynda and Nancy Barness created the Herbert and Irma Barness Research Fund to honor their parents and support cancer research at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center. Family members and friends make regular contributions throughout the year to recognize special events and occasions. Their mother Irma was an accomplished painter, and when she passed away in 2013, not only did the family auction her artwork to raise vital cancer research funds, but they also donated a few pieces to be placed in the hospital, so that patients and families could find inspiration and courage through the color and beauty of her paintings.

Nancy Barness:
"Our mother was a woman of many talents and gifts. She fell in love with art and our father at the same time, and she expressed her passion for friends and family through her creativity. We were so pleased to be able to keep that passion alive by donating her work to the Abramson Cancer Center, which she also held dearly for providing her family with the best care possible."

Lynda Barness:
"It was particularly important that we make our gift when our father was first diagnosed because we wanted to be part of a cure. It became important to our parents as well as to us to continue contributing to Penn's Abramson Cancer Center because it does so much for so many. We always said: you only need one more drug, one more day, and hope – hopefully the ongoing gifts to our fund help provide that."

Jen Stern:
"The Abramson Cancer Center has held a special place in my heart since I was a child. My grandfather was a cancer survivor, and was treated here by Dr. John Glick. My mom is a breast cancer survivor also treated at Abramson, and served as the first Chair of the Abramson Cancer Center Director's Leadership Council advocating on behalf of this wonderful Philadelphia institution. It was important to me to keep the tradition going, and so when I heard about the Young Friends of the Abramson Cancer Center – who are dedicated to raising vital funds to support our young investigators and clinicians whose novel ideas often go unfunded because of funding challenges – I jumped at the opportunity to get involved!

Since 1984, the percentage of Principal Investigators who receive NIH R01's under the age of 36 has decreased from 18% to less than 3% in 2010. It is this generation of scientists and clinicians who represent our strongest chance of finding new and better ways to detect and treat cancer, and without philanthropic support their ideas will simply not be realized.

I am so pleased to be involved with a group that is making a difference, and to be part of ensuring that cancer ends with this generation!"