Ovarian Cycle raises more than $250,000 … so far
By Deb Silverthorn
The Aaron Family JCC’s Zale Auditorium turned into a land of magic Sunday, and the magicians — Jill Bach, Helen Gardner and Julie Shrell — and their 300-plus assistants’ main trick? To raise awareness and funds to fight ovarian cancer. With a reported $282,660 raised, the 2012 Ovarian Cycle Dallas Ride to Change the Future will be one tough act to follow.
Bach, Gardner and Shrell co-chaired the event. Ovarian Cycle, the Clearity Foundation and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF) were beneficiaries of the local inaugural race.
“Someone pinch me. We WILL survive this stupid disease!” said Shrell, now in remission after an October, 2010 diagnosis of Stage 3C ovarian cancer. “We’ve got names of people ready to ride again and others who can’t wait to join us next year.”
The JCC’s Zale auditorium provided the backdrop for the roomful of riders on pink, blue and silver balloon bedecked bicycles, most decorated by each team. Team members were dressed in t-shirts, tie-dye outfits, tutus and more. The Pap Shmears, Pedaling for Progress and Team Not My Ovaries were just some of the fun names working to raise funds for the serious cause. On the stage sat an empty bicycle, with balloons in memory of lost loved ones.
Ovarian Cycle was founded in 2004 in Atlanta by Bethany Diamond after the loss of her friend, Debbie Greene Flamm. Diamond’s mission then, as it is eight years later, is to fund research to find a reliable screening test for ovarian cancer. Since 2004, monies raised through rides in Atlanta, Birmingham, Tallahassee, Seattle and New York City have allowed the non-profit organization to donate a minimum of 80 percent of the money it raises to medical research to find an early detection test for ovarian cancer. Each year in the United States, more than 21,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and about 15,000 women die of the disease. Ovarian Cycle, to date, has raised more than $1 million.
“Julie, Jill and Helen, and everyone in this room are changing the future for all women,” said Diamond who rode the local race, noting that many women are diagnosed in later stages of ovarian cancer because there is no diagnostic test. “There’s nothing I can do to help my friend Debbie but she had a daughter, I have a daughter, and I do this for them, for the Julies, Jills and Helens, for every other woman and those who love them. There has been a synergy created here today that will last for years.”
The Clearity Foundation, a group of scientists, physicians and volunteers, was founded after Dr. Laura Shawver was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, learning first-hand that treatment options are extremely limited. “Helen Gardner found our organization and, after tumor blueprinting, determined that she and I had the same diagnosis of clear cell cancer, just two years apart,” said Shawver. The international Clearity Foundation provides doctors access to molecular profiling for their ovarian cancer patients, as well as offering clinical trial options and access to novel therapeutics.
“Helen is an inspiration because, while still battling this disease, she put on this event, helped us, and she’s been a strong wife and mother,” said Shawver, now five years in remission, who joined in the premiere ride. “I want Helen to have her cure and we won’t stop until every woman has her cure!”
OCRF program grants in the past have gone to research such as Joanna Burdette’s study “Identifying Early Events in Ovarian Cancer Using a 3-D Model of Ovarian Tissues” at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and Sharmistha Sarkar’s “Finding a Marker to Detect Early Stage Ovarian Cancer Study” at M.D. Anderson Cancer Institute (previously at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute). According to Katie Dillon, OCRF’s director of events, 2012 grants will be determined later this year, after all the Ovarian Cycles have been completed.
Amy Lester and Mark Elfenbein emceed the event that featured messages and encouragement from The Breast Center at the Medical Center of Plano’s Beth Anglin, M.D.; Texas Oncology’s James Strauss, M.D.; and Dell’s Entrepreneur in Residence, Ingrid Vanderveldt.
Team Charlotte’s Charlotte Huthnance spoke as one of many in the middle of the battle against ovarian cancer. “My doctor, Jane Nokleberg, diagnosed my cancer during an annual exam in early December. Two weeks later I had two tumors removed and, with seven rounds of chemo to go, in April, I’ll be done,” said the wife of Rob and mother of Thompson, Georgeann and C.C. The children all under 10 years of age joined two sets of riders on their mother’s behalf. “The depth of this event, of the devotion to find a cure is beyond anything I could have imagined.”
“I am proud, joyful, and grateful everywhere I look today. This is a dream,” said Gardner who co-chaired and trained for the event, while undergoing chemotherapy. Gardner was diagnosed with ovarian cancer just two years ago. “We women deserve better and I want ovarian cancer off of the list of things for us to worry about.”
“There’s a lot of community in this Jewish Community Center today,” said Artie Allen, president of the Aaron Family JCC. The Ride to Change the Future is the first fundraising event, sponsored by the JCC, with all donations made to an outside organization. “We broke through a boundary by hosting an ‘outside’ event, which really benefits so many inside our J and inside our community. We are glad these women came to us, and this was definitely the right decision. This event really defines community.”
Jon Mize, director of Fitness and Wellness at the J, coordinated a team of trainers who, since October, have donated their expertise during training sessions over the last four months, with more intense rides in the six weeks leading up to the event. The JCC’s Group Exercise Director, Terri Arends along with Heather Dixon, Bob Grossman, Howard Ketelson, Jill Mearns, Kara Schull, Richard Wharton, Ben Williams, and Dorothy Zarbo, worked with first-time riders and those who’ve ridden the distance.
“You don’t know what tomorrow holds so we need to worry about today, and we are doing what we can right now,” said Williams who on Sunday coached the Ride to the Future’s last, and very emotional, hour. “We were honored to be a part of this and the greatest gift we could all give is the give of time. You can earn more money but you don’t get time back. This was time given with our hearts and respect. I didn’t know Jill, Julie or Helen before but I’ll tell you, these women have zero quit. They’ve fought an uphill battle with absolutely zero quit!”
“The silver lining to my getting sick was being a part of this,” said Bach, now in her fourth year of remission. “I’m alive for a purpose and I want to make the most of that.”
Donations to each team’s website can be made at ovariancycledallas.org through Aug. 31, 2012 (the end of the fiscal year). For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.