Q&A with Margaret Laws & Astellas Oncology C³ Prize Winner Nanny Angel Network

TEDMED Delegate and President & CEO of Hopelab Margaret Laws lent her expertise as one of the official judges for the 2019 Astellas Oncology C³ Prize, which culminated in late October with a live pitch event awarding grants and resources to four inspiring winners. Just after C³ Prize winner Nanny Angel Network was awarded the Grand Prize, Margaret sat down with Leah Werry, a leading local champion for Nanny Angel Network, who pitched on behalf of the organization to discuss the winning idea. This interview was condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Margaret Laws: I’m here with Leah Werry of Nanny Angel Network, a Canadian not-for-profit organization. Nanny Angel Network is the winner of the Grand Prize at today’s Astellas Oncology C³ Prize live pitch competition. Leah, would you tell us a little bit about yourself and about Nanny Angel Network?

Leah Werry: I am a volunteer and the Kingston Champion for our first branch outside of Toronto. Nanny Angel Network provides free, specialized, in-home childcare for moms who’ve been diagnosed with cancer.

ML: What is the origin story of Nanny Angel Network?

LW: Our founder, Audrey Guth, had a classic a-ha moment. She’s a mother of four and a cancer survivor. About 10 years ago, she was sitting in a waiting room for her own cancer treatment when she noticed a young mom struggling with a very fussy toddler, who was reaching up and grabbing her headscarf off her head. The mom was sitting there crying; she just couldn’t cope. Audrey started to wonder how this mom would be able to get to all of her treatments and get well for her child. That’s when Audrey realized she could do something about it, and Nanny Angel Network was born.

ML: Tell me a little bit about who the Nanny Angels are and their work with the families.

LW: Our Nanny Angels are volunteers with professional childcare experience, which gives moms peace of mind to know their kids are well cared for. These volunteers commit a minimum of six months, often a year or longer, to spend several hours a week with the family. We want to bring normalcy and consistency to these families’ lives, and so the same Nanny Angel supports a child or children throughout the mother’s cancer journey – from diagnosis through treatment and recovery, and if need be, through palliative and bereavement periods.

ML: Nanny Angel Network was the Grand Prize winner today, which means the organization took home a prize of $100,000. As you look ahead, what are some of the big milestones you anticipate, and how are you going to be taking this prize money and putting it to work?

LW: Winning means that we can accelerate our plans for the future. We’ve been developing our 10-year plan, and we’d like to open a new branch every year. We really want Nanny Angel Network to grow and help more families and more communities. Nanny Angel Network is very scalable, and we have to put building blocks in place to do that. That means investment in our backend support systems, our software programs, and building out our IT.

ML: I think the TEDMED community will have an incredible array of resources and people with ideas to help with that. It’s exciting to think about how you also might leverage the TEDMED community.

LW: Yes, it’s not just about the prize money, but about the support that we’ve been given. Winning the C³ Prize is such validation for what we’ve been doing, and it’s so motivating and inspiring. The help that the TEDMED folks have given us in this process; I just can’t believe what it’s bringing to the table for us in terms of resources.

C³ Prize Judges with the Prize Winner. From R to L: Mark Reisenauer, Senior Vice President, Oncology Business Unit, Astellas; Bill Rancic, Businessman and TV personality; Margaret Laws, TEDMED Delegate/Collaborator and President/CEO of HopeLab; Leah Werry, Nanny Angel Network; Kinston Ontario Hernâni Oliveira, The HOPE Project; 2017 C³ Prize Winner Abbie Celniker, Ph.D., Third Rock Ventures Partner

ML: For this year’s C³ Prize, there were more 240 applications from people in 15 countries, with great depth and diversity. I’m sure it was exciting for you to be competitive in such an incredible global pool.

LW: This has really opened our eyes to what’s happening in cancer care overall, to really see that people are so passionate about finding solutions to problems that are beyond the grasp of traditional medical or technological interventions. There are such opportunities for synergy here to change the cancer journey for people.

ML: As one of the judges today, it was an exciting development to see the number of people who are out there tackling really hard issues, including social support and mental and emotional well-being. We do a lot of that work at Hopelab, which I lead, and it’s validating to understand what big issues these are in the cancer journey.

LW: You’re echoing how I feel exactly. It’s been so inspirational for us to see that human connection has to be part of the approach to helping families get through their cancer journey, because when a mom is diagnosed, it is the family’s cancer journey. It was really exciting to see the ideas to help people get through that process that go beyond the traditional way we think about cancer.

ML: What’s next for Nanny Angel Network? It’s bound to be an exciting year ahead.

LW: Nanny Angel Network is very scalable. We have a plan in place up until 2030, and now with the funding and support of Astellas and TEDMED and the whole team, we can accelerate our plans, and we’ll be opening our next branches and building our capacity to help more families.

ML: Looking forward to TEDMED 2020. Thanks a lot for talking with me today, and really excited to see you as this year’s Grand Prize winner. We’ll be looking to see what’s happened between now and March. To learn more about Nanny Angel Network and the other inspiring innovators who were selected for the 2019 Astellas Oncology C³ Prize, visit the C³ Prize website or follow #C3Prize on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

This TEDMED Partner Blog Post comes to you from TEDMED 2020 Partner, Astellas. TEDMED is excited to partner with Astellas Oncology on its C³ (Changing Cancer Care) Prize, a challenge that funds the best ideas beyond medicine to improve cancer care for patients, caregivers and their loved ones. The 2019 C³ Prize winners will join us at TEDMED 2020 as TEDMED Scholars, on March 2-4, 2020, in Boston.