Hank Cochran passed away in 2010 after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. Now, Cochran's family is launching the Pen Fund, in partnership with the Nashville-based Nikki Mitchell Foundation, to work with songwriters battling pancreatic cancer and advocate for awareness, detection and treatment of the disease.

"Hank loved songwriting, and he loved other songwriters," says Booth Calder, Cochran's daughter and a co-founder of the Pen Fund. "He passed that love on to me, and that gave me an incredible drive to help others. Writers give up so much, and we believe that they deserve help, especially when facing a life-changing illness such as this."

The Country Music Hall of Fame member, who was inducted posthumously last year, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July of 2008 and bravely fought the illness for two years, before passing away on July 15, 2010.

"The statistics for the disease are awful," Calder adds. "There will be an estimated 37,000-48,000 people diagnosed this year. Although those numbers are smaller than most cancers, the percentage of people who die in the first five years following diagnosis is 94 percent, the highest of any cancer."

There is currently no early detection method for pancreatic cancer, which is partly why Cochran's family felt so strongly about launching the Pen Fund.

"That's one of the goals of the Pen Fund," Cochran's widow, Suzi Cochran, notes. "Early detection is critical to survival, but research dollars are at a premium. We hope to help in that area, while also making a positive impact on individual songwriters who are suffering through the disease.

"Hank's songs will always be remembered," Cochran adds. "And we hope his passion for the songwriting community lives on through the Pen Fund."

The Nikki Mitchell Foundation was set up in memory of Nikki Mitchell, Waylon Jennings' longtime manager, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2013. Earlier this year, Jamey Johnson, Shooter JenningsJessi Colter, Carlene Carter, Angeleena Presley and the Secret Sisters performed at special fundraiser for the non-profit at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The event honored eight country artists who have been affected by pancreatic cancer, including Cochran, Ray Price, the Carter Family, the Louvin Brothers, Jennings, Felice Bryant, Webb Pierce and Merlin Littlefield.

To find more information on the Pen Fund and pancreatic cancer, or to make a donation, visit Cochran's website.

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