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IMERMAN ANGELS - One-on-One with Benjamin Bornstein

As he faced his own cancer treatment in 2003, Jonny Imerman decided that no one should fight cancer alone. Three years later, Imerman Angels was born. Whether you are on or have completed a cancer journey, or have a loved one fighting the disease, our conversation with Imerman CEO & Executive Director Benjamin Bornstein, a three-time cancer survivor, just might be a game changer.

Imerman Angels' Founder and Chief Mission Officer, Jonny Imerman recounts why he started the organization that provides free one-on-one support to cancer fighters, survivors and caretakers in all 50 states and in 60 countries worldwide.

Imerman Angels is a Chicago-based non-profit that brings people dealing with cancer together with a "Mentor Angel",  that is, someone who is of the approximate age and who has fought the same type of cancer. According to Ben Bornstein, since 2006, Imerman Angels has expanded operations to 50 states, 60 countries and made over 34,000 connections with the support of 8,000 mentor angels matching up a staggering 137 cancer types. 

Full disclosure: In July 2008, I was diagnosed with Stage 3C colon cancer and faced colorectal surgery followed by a 6-month, 12 session chemotherapy treatment that ended in February 2009. So, it is safe to say that the wide-ranging conversation on August 8th was both personal and relevant, all about recent advancements in medical treatment, the importance of early detection, innovations in patient aftercare and what’s ahead for an extraordinary organization that is changing the outlook for cancer patients one survivor at a time.

Imerman Angels Wings of Hope Gala Four Seasons Chicago - September 9, 2017

Imerman Angels Wings of Hope Gala
Four Seasons Chicago - September 9, 2017

Benjamin Bornstein on Imerman Angels - A missing link in the cancer fight ..."The medical advances have been tremendous in the past thirty years. In contrast, the psychosocial support services available to cancer fighters has not evolved quite as quickly. One of the things we look at here at Imerman Angels is providing that missing link of a mentoring experience – a like for like experience – to provide a cancer fighter who is also going through great emotional stress and trauma with that mentor angel who has been through it before … to help guide you through your tough experience, and help emerge on the back end as positively as you can."

Imerman Angels Core Values

These are the operating philosophies and principles that guide our internal conduct as well as our relationship with the outside world.

Mission first, people first - We focus on profoundly impacting those touched by cancer through delivery of our mission.

Create awareness and inspiration -The more people that know about our mission and service, the more people we can help and inspire.
Fundraising as mission focused - While personalized one-on-one cancer support always remains the primary focus, fundraising is essential to ensure we maintain ample resources to carry out our mission.
Create community - We strive to be inclusive, to build long-term relationships and to treat everyone with empathy and compassion.
Build alliances with everyone - We are happy to share and help any good cause. We don't compete - we just hug back!
Stay relaxed, laid back and have funnnnnnnnnn! - While the work we do is serious, there's a joy and fulfillment in making an impact in people's lives.
Stay innovative and always improve - We believe in excellence and must never settle for being "good enough." We set and exceed our own high standards in order to best help those touched by cancer.
Be humble - Cancer is an equalizer. There's no room for ego in the cancer fight.


On the importance of early detection and understanding family health legacy … "There is no doubt that there is a genetic component to cancer …lot’s of concern in my own family, so for me, I am particularly sensitive to any unusual symptoms of fatigue ... blood in stool, lumps, sores that do not heal as quickly. … One thing we emphasize at Imerman Angels is to be sure to be in touch with your body. Don’t be afraid of going to the doctor. Many young adults are the most reluctant group, men in particular … It can make the difference between surviving and not making it through your cancer journey to find tings early. Early detection fro cancer, like most medical conditions, is the name of the game for survival."

Founder Jonny Imerman’s inspirational message"Everybody needs something more than just the medical care and the positive relationship and support from family and friends. What (Jonny Imerman) brings to the table is that element of ‘Never give up!’, positive energy and always thinking towards making it to the other end of your cancer journey and doing a great job of transmitting his own energy into the organization we now call Imerman Angels and this army of 8,000 Mentor Angels who are survivors of cancer ... who mentor and give back to those going through a similar journey themselves. ... Culturally, that has been a big part of the footprint of Imerman Angels – Cancer is an equalizer. Cancer humbles you. We can stay positive, still try to have some fun and be a little bit  laid back as a culture here, as we are helping people deal with something very serious – that their life is on the line through a cancer diagnosis."

Overall impact … "The impact can go in a lot of different directions. This is a human connection, a human relationship between two people. We train our Mentor Angels, but we then are not recording or monitoring the interactions. It takes on the personalities, if you will, of the two people involved. So, sometimes that means that encouragement to get a second opinion or to check out a clinical trial for a tough-to-beat cancer … and in those cases, this can really be a life saver."

On the importance of matching age and cancer type … "We call it a ‘Connection Perfection’ mentality … we have a database … we score the way we feel (the fighters) are most important and then we add a human overlay on top of it through our call center so that a fighter can tell us what is most important for them. We try to make it as ‘like for like’ as possible."


  • If you or someone you know is interested in the Imerman Angels or you would like to learn more, visit the website at: You will also find information there about the Wings of Hope Gala on September 9th at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago.

2017 Wings of Hope Gala



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