CRANFORD - Bridgewater Township Mayor Daniel J. Hayes, Jr. formally announced the Township will observe October as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Month annually, in memory of beloved resident and former Cranford teacher, Donna M. Karlis, who passed from the incurable disease in 2017 at age 42.

According to the release, The Donna M. Karlis Memorial Fund worked with the mayor’s office to devise a proclamation that Township Councilwoman Christine Henderson Rose presented at the fund’s inaugural Team ROAR 5K and 1-Mile event on Oct. 6 at Duke Island Park in Bridgewater. An estimated 400 people attended the U.S.A.Track and Field sanctioned event.

“After learning about Donna’s story, and more about metastatic breast cancer, I immediately signed on,” said Mayor Hayes. “I am asking Bridgewater residents and businesses to help recognize and support this cause so that more public discussion, education and research funding can be done. Together we can work toward turning this incurable disease into one that more people can live longer and survive.”

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Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is very different from early stage breast cancer. MBC is advanced breast cancer, stage IV, and is defined by the spread of cancer cells beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to non-adjacent organs such as the lung, liver, bones and brain.

“My family would like to thank Mayor Hayes for decreeing October as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Bridgewater. In addition to the emotional support it shows for MBC patients, their families, and my family, it is witness to the mayor’s and the township’s understanding of the seriousness of MBC and their desire to recognize the disease as such and to support our mission of finding a cure,” said Michael Karlis, chairman of the Donna M. Karlis Memorial Fund and Donna’s husband.

Donna attended Saint Michael School in Cranford until fifth grade, Orange Avenue School until eighth grade, and graduated from Cranford High School in 1993. She attended Seton Hall University, where she graduated with honors and a Bachelor of Arts in education in 1997, followed by Kean University with a Master’s in education. Karlis was a teacher at Bloomingdale Avenue School and Orange Avenue School from 1998-2009. She taught second and fifth grades, and later became a sixth grade math teacher. Her maiden name is Mason (the M. initial in her name).

Karlis moved to Bridgewater after she got married and was a devoted mom to two little girls and to her husband of 10 years. She was a loving daughter, sister, niece, cousin, and friend. She touched so many people with her kindness and generosity. 

Donna’s family and friends created Team ROAR in her honor in 2013 after she was first diagnosed and would walk and run to show their support. The team name and logo is inspired by one of Donna’s fight songs, “Roar” by Katy Perry. After she passed away, Team ROAR decided to continue as her team and to work to help others living with MBC.

Team ROAR 5K and 1-Mile Walk proceeds will benefit local metastatic breast cancer patients through the Somerset Health Care Foundation. The other 50 percent will benefit METAvivor Research and Support, Inc. The Somerset Health Care Foundation provides funding to the Steeplechase Cancer Center at RWJUH Somerset. METAvivor is dedicated to providing support for women and men with metastatic breast cancer and funding research to transition MBC from a terminal illness to a controlled, chronic condition.

MBC facts:

  • Only an estimated 2 percent to 5 percent of the funds raised for breast cancer research is spent on studies of metastasis, according to METAvivor Research and Support, Inc.
  • More than 150,000 women are living with MBC in the United States, and 75 percent of them initially had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, according to a 2017 National Cancer Institute joint report with MBC Alliance.

According to the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network:

  • It is estimated that 20 to 30 percent of all breast cancer cases will become metastatic.
  • The median survival after an MBC diagnosis is three years.
  • MBC is the cause of 40,000 deaths annually in the nation.
  • It is the number one cause of cancer death in young women under age 50.

Team ROAR still is accepting donations through Oct. 31 online at, or by check: P.O. Box 6214, Bridgewater, N.J. 08807.

The Donna M. Karlis Memorial Fund is a 501 (c)(3) New Jersey non-profit organization. E-mail with any questions.