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Cyclists Log 4,500 miles in 70 days to fund cancer research

By  Bayan Raji

Texas 4000 cyclists visit with patients at the Hoglund PediDome at the Children’s Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson after presenting a check for $175,000 to the institution. Photo by Barry Smith

Don’t try to tell Chris Condit it’s impossible for one person to have an impact in the fight against cancer.

Condit is founder of Sense Corp Texas 4000, a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $1 million for cancer research through an annual 4,500-mile, 70-day bike ride from Texas to Alaska.

Texas 4000 has pledged $500,000 through 2011 to M. D. Anderson. In January the organization presented $175,000 to the institution, including $125,000 to establish the Texas 4000 Distinguished Professorship for Basic Science Research and $50,000 toward the Adolescent and Young Adult Clinical and Translational Research Fund at the Children’s Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson.

Condit came up with the idea for the journey in 2003 as a student at The University of Texas at Austin. Sense Corp signed on as a major corporate sponsor in 2006.

Each fall Texas 4000 recruits potential riders from UT Austin for the journey to be made the following summer. Riders spend the year training, raising money and spreading cancer awareness. Each rider is required to raise a minimum of $4,500 to participate, but riders often come up with much more, Condit says.

This year riders will depart from Austin June 6 in hopes of reaching Anchorage by Aug. 14. In Alaska the group will celebrate the journey at a bash organized by the Anchorage Texas Exes chapter.

For Condit, a cancer survivor, presenting the check to M. D. Anderson was a moment that he’d anticipated for a long time.

“We’re proud to support M. D. Anderson and to be a small part of its mission,” he says.

Learn more at http://www.texas4000.org/.

South Texas Women’s Group Serves Hope for Breast Cancer Patients

By Sarah Watson

It was a dinner party that required months of preparation, 29 tables to set and 275 people to feed. But that didn’t faze members of the A.W.A.R.E. Department of the Woman’s Club of Kingsville, whose Designs for a Cure event Oct. 25 at the Henrietta Memorial Center raised $30,000 for breast cancer research at M. D. Anderson.

As for those table settings, each represented the creative efforts of civic organizations, businesses, churches and people dedicated to the cause. The imaginative tables ranged in design from traditional florals to over-the-top themed productions featuring skeletons, hats and gloves, teapots, playing cards, cowboy boots and hunting motifs.

Sylvia Woelfel, a breast cancer survivor soon to celebrate her fifth cancer-free anniversary, presented the unique fundraising idea two years ago, when she and fellow members of A.W.A.R.E. (Always Working at Rewarding Experiences) tackled all of the preparations, including the menu. This year the women left the cooking to a local catering company, serving as wait staff instead.

Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo, M.D., assistant professor of breast medical oncology at M. D. Anderson, offered remarks. After dinner John Ford, Kleberg County agriculture extension agent, led bidders in a live auction offering an array of items from San Antonio Spurs tickets to hunting packages to yard flamingos decorated by local celebrities. A silent auction supplemented the proceeds. Among guests were state and district officers of the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs, whose history of support for M. D. Anderson dates to the institution’s earliest days. The Kingsville chapter also has been a longtime contributor to its cancer research and patient care programs.

Woelfel says that of the 30 current members of A.W.A.R.E., five have had breast cancer and that all have been touched by the disease.

“Our first fundraiser for the institution was a celebrity auction that benefited brain cancer research,” says Woelfel. “We’ve also organized antiques shows that attracted dealers from all over Texas. We’re really pleased with the success of this year’s Designs for a Cure.”

Underwriters included Patsy and Charles Winn of Winn Exploration; King Ranch Inc.; Jane Dodds; Melinda Clement; Davis, Trant, Ramirez and Flores; and Riviera Telephone Company.

Latin Recording Artists Share Music from 'El Corazon'

Three stars from the Latin music industry, in Houston for the Latin GRAMMY® Awards, stepped into M. D. Anderson for an hour or so and forever into the hearts of patients, caregivers and employees. An enthusiastic audience at Alkek Hospital delighted to the music of Gian Marco, from left, Noel Schajris and Jon Secada. The musicians were accompanied by representatives of the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, including Gabriel Abaroa, president, who described music as “a powerful tool to heal, to help and to give something back.” The artists donated four signed guitars to the institution’s music therapy program for pediatric and adult patients and their families. See a video of the performance on the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center News Facebook page. Photo by Brenda K. Gunter

Planned Giving Drives Couple's Philanthropic Decisions

Pat and Jerry Abbott find planned giving an opportunity to support research at M. D. Anderson that reflects their interests in nutrition and cancer prevention.
Photo by John Everett

When Pat and Jerry Abbott of Pharr, Texas, dreamed of retirement, they imagined themselves with time on their hands, touring the country in a shiny new RV outfitted with all the comforts of home. Little did they know they’d be making a road trip — make that several road trips — to M. D. Anderson.

Two years ago, acting on a hunch, Jerry asked his doctor to order a colonoscopy, though a previous sigmoidoscopy, a minimally invasive examination of the large intestine, had found nothing wrong. Despite questions as to the need for further screening, the test was scheduled at a facility in Corpus Christi.

The diagnosis: colon cancer. Facing surgery, Jerry knew his next decision would be one of the most important in his life. He insisted on heading straight for M. D. Anderson, where, he says, “cancer is what they do.”

“I wanted to go to M. D. Anderson because of its reputation as a world-class cancer center,” says Jerry. “The doctors there perform more surgeries to treat specific cancers in one week than others do in a year. I wanted to go where cancer is the specialty.”

Today Jerry is cancer-free. He says if he ever wins the Texas Lottery, “I’ll give it all to M. D. Anderson.”

In the meantime, the couple has structured their planned giving to include three charitable gift annuities to M. D. Anderson, plus an additional gift through their estate.

The Abbotts continue to travel, occasionally parking their RV in Houston for Jerry’s six-month checkups. They covered 11 states last summer, and the next big trip on their calendar is a month-long visit to Australia.

With renewed interests in holistic medicine, nutrition and prevention, they’re proud that one day their planned giving will support meaningful research, such as that conducted by Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., director of the institution’s Integrative Medicine Program, and Frank C. Marini, Ph.D., associate professor of stem cell transplantation research.

“It’s exciting to think that Pat and I can make a difference in their work,” says Jerry.

‘Divas’ Rev Up Breast Cancer Awareness

By Sarah Watson

Michelle Hampton, from left, Elaine Thomas, Jan Emanuel-Costley, Cynthia Marcy and Aj Coffee supported M. D. Anderson through the 2008 Divas For A Cure Breast Cancer Motorcycle Run.

They call themselves “Divas For A Cure,” but their work is far from glamorous.

Jan Emanuel-Costley, founder and president of the California-based nonprofit organization, and a band of biker buddies are helping fund breast cancer research at M. D. Anderson through cross-country motorcycle rides, with the support of corporate sponsor Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

Last summer’s third annual Divas For A Cure Breast Cancer Motorcycle Run found Emanuel-Costley and 2008 DFAC core group riders enduring the elements on an 18-day, 6,014-mile journey. Emanuel-Costley and fellow divas Michelle Hampton, Elaine Thomas, Cynthia Marcy and Aj Coffee, DFAC vice president and ride coordinator, biked from Atlanta to Canada to the East Coast and back, collectively raising $35,000 through registrations, sales of “Real Divas Ride” patches, sponsorships and donations. Members of local chapters of the National Association of Buffalo Soldiers & Troopers Motorcycle Club escorted the women in and out of major stopping points, helping spread their awareness campaign to participants and supporters along the way.

An Oct. 25 check presentation at the Harley-Davidson of Ocean County dealership in Lakewood, N.J., celebrated the successful ride. Since 2006, Divas For A Cure has raised $110,000 for research at M. D. Anderson. Emanuel-Costley, a breast cancer survivor, says the organization also is dedicated to promoting early detection through education and screenings.

“The 2009 ride will be another test of endurance, but it also will be a journey from the heart,” she says.

Learn more at http://www.divasforacure.org/.

Mehta Family Foundation Supports Hematopathology Research

By Sarah Watson

The Department of Hematopathology at M. D. Anderson provides diagnostic services and specialized testing for patients with all types of leukemia, lymphoma and benign hematologic disorders. Yet, when it comes to competitive research funds, pathology in general is an under-appropriated area despite its far-reaching impact. That’s why the Bhupat and Jyoti Mehta Family Foundation recently chose to expand its giving to include hematopathology research at M. D. Anderson.

“We realized that we could make a donation and make a difference,” says foundation board member Jay Mehta.

An experience at M. D. Anderson sparked the Mehta Family Foundation’s interest in hematopathology, explains Bernard Luksich, executive director. A year ago pathologist John T. Manning Jr., M.D., professor of hematopathology at M. D. Anderson, correctly diagnosed Mehta’s brother’s cancer after a number of incorrect diagnoses elsewhere. In this case, pathology was key in the treatment decision, setting him on the road to recovery. Thus, the members of the foundation came to see the significance of pathology and its role in determining the best cancer treatment.

One hematopathology research project under way at M. D. Anderson is identifying targeted biomarker assessments in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Its goal is to reveal specific molecular events that play a role in progression and therapeutic response,” says Timothy J. McDonnell, M.D., Ph.D., professor of hematopathology and principal investigator.

“We’re grateful to the Mehta Family Foundation for its support,” says McDonnell. “The progress of the lymphoma biomarkers project demonstrates the power of philanthropy to provide the means to follow through on cutting-edge research projects that can result in new and better therapies in the clinic.”

When Pat and Jerry Abbott of Pharr, Texas, dreamed of retirement, they imagined themselves with time on their hands, touring the country in a shiny new RV outfitted with all the comforts of home. Little did they know they’d be making a road trip — make that several road trips — to M. D. Anderson.

Two years ago, acting on a hunch, Jerry asked his doctor to order a colonoscopy, though a previous sigmoidoscopy, a minimally invasive examination of the large intestine, had found nothing wrong. Despite questions as to the need for further screening, the test was scheduled at a facility in Corpus Christi. The diagnosis: colon cancer. Facing surgery, Jerry knew his next decision would be one of the most important in his life. He insisted on heading straight for M. D. Anderson, where, he says, “cancer is what they do.”

“I wanted to go to M. D. Anderson because of its reputation as a world-class cancer center,” says Jerry. “The doctors there perform more surgeries to treat specific cancers in one week than others do in a year. I wanted to go where cancer is the specialty.”

Today Jerry is cancer-free. He says if he ever wins the Texas Lottery, “I’ll give it all to M. D. Anderson.”

In the meantime, the couple has structured their planned giving to include three charitable gift annuities to M. D. Anderson, plus an additional gift through their estate.

The Abbotts continue to travel, occasionally parking their RV in Houston for Jerry’s six-month checkups. They covered 11 states last summer, and the next big trip on their calendar is a month-long visit to Australia.

With renewed interests in holistic medicine, nutrition and prevention, they’re proud that one day their planned giving will support meaningful research, such as that conducted by Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., director of the institution’s Integrative Medicine Program, and Frank C. Marini, Ph.D., associate professor of stem cell transplantation research.

“It’s exciting to think that Pat and I can make a difference in their work,” says Jerry.

Spring 2009 Contents


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center