In 2011, OCSA met Marc Wolff and the Message from Marli Foundation Founders through Co-Founder Vallie Szymanski’s longtime childhood friend Linda Olesen. We have been honored to work on several awareness projects together. In honor of Father’s Day, Vallie sat down with Marc, an incredible father, to ask him five questions.
Vallie Szymanski: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Marc Wolff: I am the President and CEO of Florida Air Transport and Conquest Air Cargo. Previously, I’ve worked with The Message from Marli Foundation, Inc., DiversityPro Corp. and Edwards Paper Company. I received a BA in Liberal Studies from Florida International University. As a person, I’m a pretty traditional dad. I’ve always had a high-level of communication with my children. I took the great things my parents did for me, and the not so great, and did my best to “refine” my parenting.
I have been blessed to meet, work with, and soon wed this November a kind lady named Claudia Rey. She has no children of her own but has taken on my children as if they were hers. She has been an integral part of my comeback in business and helping me maintain my sanity. The children are grateful she is in their lives as well.
VS: Can you tell us about the Message from Marli Foundation and your late wife Marlene?
MW: My wife Marlene was the eldest of five children. She graduated with a Masters Degree in Urban Education from Florida International University and taught Elementary School in the “inner city” for eight years. A very traditional woman with the highest values. Her greatest gift to our children was that she instilled a “LOVE FOR READING” that has made them academically superior!
When my wife was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer, our lives turned upside down overnight. She was first diagnosed by our family practitioner whose wife had died of ovarian cancer 10 years earlier. We were assured it was not cancer all the way to the operating table. We were told it was diverticulitis or Chrohns Disease, but never cancer. We were informed in the late stages that it was actually ovarian cancer. During this time, she had a major stroke within 30 days of her surgery. So we were dealing with two major illnesses at the same time. We would go to the neurologist at University of Miami Hospital and then head over to the OBGYN for an entire year.
The Message from Marli Foundation started as a way for my children and me to empower ourselves against this horrible disease. In the summer of 2010, we started the foundation with similar goals to OCSA. Through my medical experience as a caregiver, I was astonished at the lack of knowledge most women had regarding this disease. It still surprises me when we have our events.
VS: We would love to hear about your children, Melanie, Mason and Mia. Can you tell us about them?
MW: Melanie is doing excellent. She recently interned at the Helmsley Foundation in NYC and Achieve.org in Washington, DC. She is a Senior at UPENN with a major in Urban Education and a minor in English.
Mason will be attending John Hopkins University and studying applied statistics with a minor in English this fall. He is working with our company over the summer before he goes to school loading airplanes and learning Magaya Software programming for the cargo business. He will begin flying lessons next summer and each summer thereafter.
Mia is now going into 5th grade and she gets straight A’s. She’s been tested and is reading on a 9th grade level. She is a very bright and articulate young lady because of her older siblings. She can deal cards at the casino!
VS: What life lessons have they learned throughout this journey?
MW: I am a much better person because of the journey we have been on. I really appreciate the small things that I use to take for granted. I am a much better father than I would have ever been. These problems have made me more introspective about myself and that has helped me evolve as a person.
VS: As a father who lost his wife to ovarian cancer, what is your hope for the future of ovarian cancer awareness research and development?
MW: My hopes regarding the disease are:
1. Awareness begins at a younger age. This should be part of the conversation when we speak to our daughters about puberty and sex. We need to talk about cervical, breast, and ovarian cancer as well.
2. Increased and improved awareness as social media makes it affordable to give and receive information.
3. BIG PHARMA chases $$$$$. I think the initial “holy grail” is that some sort of blood work or inexpensive means to early detection is created. We need the equivalent of what a PSA is for male prostate cancer.