2021 Capital Region Gives Back: Janet Abrahamson, Founder and Executive Director, Joy US Foundation

This story is part of a larger feature on 10 do-gooders from Saratoga and the rest of the Capital Region. To meet the other nine honorees and purchase tickets for annual fundraising event, visit our Capital Region Gives Back event page.

“There’s a financial toxicity involved with surviving cancer,” says Janet Abrahamson, founder and executive director of the Joy US Foundation. She cites a Duke University study that shows that, as a cancer survivor, you might spend a third of your household income just surviving cancer, leaving little room for vacation or celebration.

That’s where the Joy Us Foundation comes in. Since 2018, Abrahamson and her organization have been hosting free events—more than 50 to date!—to help cancer survivors and their families heal through outdoor activities like camping, hiking and kayaking. 

Although Abrahamson had to hit the pause button last year, once it was safe to start scheduling events again this past winter, she did—and the demand was overwhelming. “Our first event was snow-tubing at Willard Mountain, and we had 117 people,” she says. “We sold out in 30 minutes.” Other well-attended activities included a steamboat cruise on Lake George, a trip to the Great Escape and the return of the foundation’s signature ADK Weekend Getaway, which takes place at a sleepaway camp in Old Forge (Abrahamson’s dream is to someday secure her own private property on which to host this and other Joy US Foundation events).

The foundation’s other big annual get-together is Stronger Than Cancer Day, which is turning into a Saratoga staple. (You’ve probably seen people wearing the red-white-and-blue long-sleeves from 2019’s event.) While this year’s event will look a little different than in pre-pandemic years—participants will be able to take part in free workouts at area gyms—it’s no less of a mission-centric one for the foundation. “We want to really motivate people to do whatever it is that makes them feel stronger in their lives,” says Abrahamson, “not just because of cancer.” 

If you can believe it, running the organization isn’t even Abrahamson’s day job. So what keeps her coming back for more? “I truly believe that we are all put on this earth to do something bigger than what most of us are doing,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface yet.”  

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