Mary O’Dowd exemplifies the meaning of giving back. She has dedicated her life to helping families in need, truly understanding the emotional and financial challenges they are dealing with, and is always there to lend a helping hand.
Mary is the President and Co-Founder, along with husband, Tony Pope, of the Frances Pope Memorial Foundation, established in memory of her daughter, Franny, who died of leukemia in the summer of 1981. This year marks the foundation’s 36th anniversary. It continues its mission to improve families’ quality of life during their children’s illnesses by offering financial resources, friendship, support, and empathy. To date, the foundation has distributed over a million dollars to many worthy families in need. It also provides funding for the Andrew Baeumler Technology Program at Mount Sinai Children’s Hospital, designed to enhance quality of life for pediatric patients while in hospital; and provides partial funding for the Pediatric/Oncology Fellow’s salary at the Stephen Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, NYU Langone Medical Center.
Prior to her daughter’s diagnosis, Mary enjoyed a robust singing career in the Irish circuit. In the autumn of 1981, still reeling from the loss of her beautiful little girl, she received a call from her good friend, Tommy Makem, who told her, “Get yourself a guitarist and be at the Irish Pavilion next Thursday.” She is always grateful to Tommy for forcing her back onto the stage, not only because music is a great healer, but it added another wonderful 25 years of singing to her career and it was a brilliant opportunity to promote the Frances Pope Memorial Foundation.
Mary is a native New Yorker. Her mother, Ellen, was from Co. Roscommon and her father, John, from Co. Sligo. She has one daughter, Ellen Pope Preimesberger, who has been a bastion of support in all of the foundation’s endeavors. She is a graduate of Marymount Manhattan College and serves on the Board of Physicians’ Home. ♦