Black Widow fundraiser to close down, having raised over $240K

Jeanette Lee

A GoFundMe campaign – The Jeanette Lee Legacy Fund – was launched on February 2 to help the pool’s most recognizeable icon, the Black Widow, by assisting her in covering medical bills as she battles stage 4 ovarian cancer and as a legacy to cover the day-to-day needs and college expenses of her children. The pool community responded quickly, with APA’s Jason Bowman and Billiards’ Digest publisher Mike Panozzo hosting A Night to Celebrate the Black Widow, which streamed live, three weeks after the creation of the Legacy fund. It was followed by a series of benefit tournaments, the first of which Lee was able to attend. The fund will come to a close on June 20th, having generated over $240,000 in donations.

Over 3,100 people have donated, including large donations from, but by no means limited to Johnny Morris, the owner of Bass Pro Shops, for whom Jeanette was a long-time celebrity spokesperson, donated $50,000, NASCAR legend Tony Stewart donated $10,000 and Chinese media personality Yue-Sai Kan gave $5,000. Most of the gifts, however, were of the $10 to $20 variety, and several donations were from ad hoc events and fundraisers around the country (Charlotte, NC/ Upstate NY/Muncie, IN and Montana, to name a few) that donated their ‘pooled’ contributions. The industry stepped up, as well; Cuetec created and donated 50 custom cues. Matchroom Billiards, Venom and others also contributed.

On the medical front, there is cause for optimism. According to her agent, Tom George, Lee is handling chemo very well and is “baldly beautiful.” The chemo has had an obvious positive effect on reducing her cancer burden and she also came through major surgery, (her 20th!!!) like a champ.  The surgeon’s commentary is that it went “as well as could be expected.”  All are hopeful for a period of remission after she completes her 6th round of chemo in early June.

Concern over Jeanette’s condition has spawned incredible press coverage.  The story was picked up by, among others, the NY Post, TMZ, Deadspin, Yahoo Sports and included a feature in the NY Times and an upcoming full feature in Sports Illustrated.  It got international coverage in the Philippines, India and Hong Kong, among others.

“The press coverage has been stunning,” said George, “and has led to some very interesting opportunities for Jeanette, including the possibility of a biopic on her life story.”

According to George, sports marketing juggernaut, Octagon will be developing and packaging the film.  A lot of options are under discussion including a documentary and a dramatic feature or limited series, something roughly analogous to a billiards version of “The Queen’s Gambit”.

“The market seems fertile for a true story of female empowerment in a male-dominated segment,” noted George. “It would be a powerful and compelling story of an Asian-American woman at a particularly poignant time.”

Lee has expressed her gratitude on a number of occasions, appearing live, once, at one of the fundraisers and audio-visually at others, and as the fund-raising campaign approaches its $250K goal, she has expressed it again.
“I am absolutely humbled and overwhelmed by the amount of support I have been getting.” she said. “As we approach our goal of $250,000, we have decided to end the campaign.  You guys have done enough.  I will be forever grateful.  I can now concentrate solely on fighting the disease secure in the knowledge that my girls, Cheyenne, Chloe and Savannah, will be well taken care of.”

“The billiards community really responded with an intensity that is both shocking and gratifying,” she added. “They say that a positive outlook helps you beat cancer.  The notes and well-wishes that came through GoFundMe were incredibly warm and encouraging.  They buoyed my spirits.  I am still dedicated to beating this thing and, if I do, the fans who responded will be a big part of the reason why.  How can I ever say thank you enough for that blessing?”