||Pat Bragdon and Mary Burke
Co-Founders of I CAN.
It is not uncommon, after having a chat with the Co-Founders of I CAN, to come away with the feeling of being hugged. That nurturing sense of deep humanity sets Mary Burke and Patricia Bragdon apart. So it seems fitting to picture them in a great laughing, mutual hug.
Pat’s and Mary’s uncommon vision, passion and perseverance combined to create a special refuge for cancer patients in 1991 when the two friends and fellow volunteers decided to address the acute lack of social services for families facing cancer in our community.
Beginning in 1987, people fighting cancer in the greater Danbury area could get financial assistance for cancer-related expenses locally through a fund established by the Ann Olsen Endowment, begun by Ronald Olsen as a memorial tribute to his wife Ann.
However, there were no counselors to guide newly diagnosed patients and their loved ones through the intimidating, frightening and life-changing challenges that lay ahead of them. Pat and Mary, who each survived cancer themselves, were determined to change that.
In 1991 Dr. Robert Cooper, a central figure in Connecticut oncology research and practice, connected Mary & Pat to Ronald Olsen and a professional relationship blossomed. Dr. Cooper has been a founding member of 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations and clearly understood the synergy of that introduction.
In 1995 the two organizations began joint efforts to help cancer patients. By 2000, the Ann Olsen Endowment Founder and Directors determined they would end the endowment and merge into one unified effort, rather than continue in a dual structure.
Today, Ann’s Place, The Home of I CAN Cancer Support Services is an agency with a blended name that pays tribute to the late Ann Olsen and to the vision of the I CAN Founders. It has become the primary contact for area cancer patients and their families and is a testament to the Founders’ passion to help others to replace fear with hope.
About Ann Olsen
Ann Olsen was a native of North Carolina, a gifted pianist and an avid golfer. An employee of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, where she was an assistant to the CEO, Ann displayed a real zest for living. She was diagnosed with cancer on Halloween, 1986. Ann faced cancer with a degree of courage, dignity and humor that truly inspired others. When she died in Danbury Hospital on St. Patrick’s Day, 1987, she was 38 years old. She had been determined to survive and devote her life to supporting others on their cancer journey. That wish is being realized over and over, first through the dedicated work of the Ann Olsen Endowment and now through its succeeding philanthropic partner, Ann’s Place, The Home of I CAN.