Miss America, an Air Force Academy graduate, to soar at this year’s Evening of Hope

Colorado’s Madison Marsh started nonprofit foundation after losing her mother to pancreatic cancer

Madison Marsh, Miss America 2024, who started a nonprofit foundation after losing her mother to pancreatic cancer, will be the keynote speaker Sept. 6 at Evening of Hope, an annual benefit for Wings of Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

By Peter Jones

Amidst tragedy, there is always hope. And there she is …

Wings of Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Research is welcoming Madison Marsh, Miss America 2024 to its next annual fundraiser. Like Wings of Hope’s founder Maureen Shul, Marsh has helped raise funds for pancreatic cancer research since tragically losing her mother to the disease. 

“My mom was a huge runner, even when she was going through chemotherapy treatments,” Marsh said in an Air Force interview. “When we talked about ways to raise money, we wanted it to remember who my mom was and not what cancer had made her. So we started the Whitney Marsh Foundation and specifically hosted a 5K and 10K run every year.”

The 2023 graduate in physics from the U.S. Air Force Academy will be the keynote speaker at Evening of Hope, Sept. 6, in the Exploration of Flight event center at Centennial Airport. Proceeds will support the groundbreaking pancreatic cancer research taking place at the University of Colorado Cancer Center on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

This Miss America and 2023 Miss Colorado has a clear answer when asked about changing the world. While still a teenager, after her mother died—at only 41—from one of the most challenging of cancers, she started the foundation named for her mother to raise funds for research into treatments and cures. The graduate intern at Harvard Medical School is, herself, now studying how artificial intelligence might be used to detect tumors in the difficult-to-reach pancreas. 

“Towards the end of my time at [the Air Force Academy], I started to realize that my bigger passions were in policy making and cancer research, so that’s why I ended up at the Kennedy School,” Marsh said.

Colorado’s Madison Marsh, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, is the first active-duty Air Force officer to compete in the Miss America pageant. The graduate intern at Harvard Medical School is now studying how artificial intelligence might be used to detect tumors in the pancreas.

Marsh’s other accomplishments include being the first active-duty Air Force officer to compete in the Miss America pageant. She is also a certified private pilot with a black belt in tae kwon do.

In addition to fundraising for the cause, the Whitney Marsh Foundation presents medical seminars and a national platform for the exchange of research into pancreatic cancer. The foundation has also initiated a pilot program to support financially struggling families who are at risk for pancreatic cancer by providing the essential blood screening that they might not otherwise receive.

Shul, Wings of Hope’s founder who lost her mother and a brother to pancreatic cancer, is thrilled to welcome Marsh to Evening of Hope.

“Madison’s impressive career as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and a Harvard intern exploring ways AI can be used for early detection of pancreatic cancer makes her message all the more urgent when it comes to understanding and treating this disease,” Shul said. “One of the challenges with pancreatic cancer is alerting the public to early symptoms, and raising awareness is as crucial as raising funding for research in fighting this disease.”

Tickets and sponsorships are available for Evening of Hope. For more information, visit wingsofhopepcr.org.