Jennifer Smith of the Power Pak

Jennifer Smith inspired this “pak” to take action

The group came together in support of their friend and raised $400,000 for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) research.

“What if someone was so close to a cure for a very challenging type of cancer —   and you could make the difference?  What if you could directly move that knowledge from hope in a laboratory to reality in a patient’s life journey? With respect to AML, I believe the moment has arrived!”    

That was the rallying cry of business leader Jennifer Smith, who helped raise millions of dollars for cancer research while she was a member of City of Hope’s National Business Products Industry volunteer group. When Smith became a City of Hope® patient with her own difficult cancer journey, it did not dampen her efforts, but instead seemed to sharpen them. She remained a steadfast supporter and advocate for cures for AML at City of Hope.    

Smith’s friend Amy Langer said, “Jenn said that maybe she got sick so that she could be part of finding a cure. Her purpose was inspiring others.”      

Smith was born in Minnesota and graduated from Hamline University with a degree in business management. When her mother became ill in 1994, Smith left her job to help her dad run the family business, Town & Country Office Products. After selling that business, Smith started Innovative Office Solutions in 2001 and grew it into one of the nation’s largest independent office products and furniture dealers.  

She earned career awards, such as Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year, and was inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame. Innovative Office Solutions was named one of Minnesota’s Best Places to Work for seven years.    

Jennifer Smith and the Power Pak
Front row: Jenn Smith, Sarah Valentini; middle row: Krista O'Malley, Amy Langer, Roberta Sydney, Michelle Kerr, Kara Trott; back row: Kimber Maderazzo, Alison Gutterman, Kimberly Etchings, Angie Bastian

In 2018, Smith was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, which is 1% of all breast cancers and one of the most difficult to treat. In 2021, she developed treatment-related AML, something that happens in about 1% of all triple-negative breast cancer cases.     

Langer, the co-founder of the staffing and recruiting company Salo, was one of 10 friends Smith made through business who came together in support of Smith during her fight with cancer. The group inspired Krista O’Malley to create the My PowerPak app to inspire others to form such support groups; Smith and her friends used the early version of the holistic caregiving app to continue fundraising for her physician, Guido Marcucci, M.D.  

Another member of the group, Quantum Health Founder and Board Chair Kara Trott, says, “She was still running her business and fundraising from her hospital bed. She never lost hope. In my discussions with her, she was very honest about her situation, but she thought she had a purpose. She felt very strongly about the fundraising for research, and she really attached to that purpose. She wasn’t going to give up, literally not until her very last days.”  

Smith passed in late 2022. Together, Smith and her friends raised more than $400,000 to empower Marcucci’s research. With such support, his laboratory team has been:  

  • Investigating a targeted therapy that starves leukemia cells  
  • Developing a medication that inhibits the energy-producing functions of leukemia stem cells  
  • Exploring the use of CAR T cells to reprogram a patient’s T cells to selectively identify and kill cancer cells  

"Jenn rallied so many people to this cause. And I believe that, because of her, the next person with AML will have more time. And more hope.”  Guido Marcucci, M.D.   

In November 2023, Smith’s friends gathered to honor her and dedicate the Jennifer Smith Garden at City of Hope’s Los Angeles campus. O’Malley, Founder and CEO of My PowerPak, said the gathering for the garden dedication was impactful.  
 
“Hearing from Dr. Marcucci about what Jenn was able to help him do with his research was beautiful,” O’Malley said. “Jenn was always asking what’s possible, was futuristic and always on a mission to help others. That was her right to the end.”