Pamela (Pam) Manikas Washek lost her decade-long battle against cancer in December 2012. Yet, during her life the disease provided her with a direction and mission.
In 2002, at age 36, Pam was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma. Friends and neighbors in her hometown of Wayland, Mass. rallied around Pam, her husband Kevin, and their three young daughters, by cooking meals and helping with everyday tasks.
At roughly the same time, one of Pam’s best friends, Jean Seiden, was diagnosed with breast cancer and she too experienced an outpouring of support.
In gratitude, the two friends launched the Wayland Angel Network, a chain of volunteers to support other families in similar sudden crises.
After Jean passed away in 2006, Pam remained committed to growing their shared endeavor. Pam turned their informal network into a full-fledged 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, renamed “Neighbor Brigade”. As executive director of Neighbor Brigade, Pam expanded it into an ever-growing statewide organization with more than 3,500 volunteers and 30 chapters.
In addition, she was a member of Mass General’s Patient and Family Advisory Council.
“Pam had such contentment in her own life,” says her husband Kevin. “She wanted to help others feel the contentment that comes with a sense of belonging and caring for each other. She was happy, and her own human suffering, her own pain, didn’t affect that.”