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When the 2020 Boot Walk to End Cancer® marches out in its new virtual mode Nov. 7, Delia Stroud of Houston once again will lead her Immunotherapy Team of friends, relatives and cancer survivors who are committed to supporting MD Anderson researchers in their drive to eliminate cancer in Texas, the nation and the world.
Stroud, a cancer survivor and active member of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors, has raised more than $130,000 during the four years she has participated in the event and has been the top individual fundraiser for the past two years. In 2019, her Immunotherapy Team raised $42,000 to advance immunotherapy research at MD Anderson, a cause that is close to Stroud’s heart.
Seven years ago, Stroud was treated at MD Anderson for triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease that defies traditional treatments. She continues to thrive today, thanks to the innovative and world-class care she received from her MD Anderson medical team.
“I am alive today because of them,” she says. “Now I want to do everything I can to help save the lives of others.”
Stroud says she will miss the festive and inspiring atmosphere of past years, when thousands of walkers filled the Texas Medical Center with music, banners and cheers for the participants. But COVID-19 won’t dampen the drive to help MD Anderson’s mission, Stroud says.
“One of the positive aspects is that given MD Anderson’s global scope, the virtual event truly enables everyone everywhere to participate,” she says.
Boot Walk participants who raise more than $10,000 can direct their donation to a program area at MD Anderson. Stroud directs her proceeds to MD Anderson’s immunotherapy research. Immunotherapy, which helps patients’ immune systems recognize and fight cancer cells, has revolutionized treatment for some types of cancer. Researchers at MD Anderson are working to make it the standard of care for many additional forms of cancer.
“This is the next horizon, and I want to help expand its benefits,” she says. “Immunotherapy offers great hope for the future.”
Each year, MD Anderson awards a commemorative boot to leaders of the top fundraising teams. The boot designed for Stroud’s Immunotherapy Team recognized MD Anderson’s Jim Allison, Ph.D., regental professor and chair of Immunology, and the breakthrough discoveries for which he was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Jeff Flasik, a program manager in Creative Services at MD Anderson, created the boot design, which features a portrait of Allison on one side and an image of the Nobel Prize medal on its reverse.
Stroud loved the design and asked Allison and his partner in science and life, Padmanee Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Immunology, to pose with the boot for a letter Stroud produced to recruit for her 2020 Boot Walk Immunotherapy Team. She offered the boot to the couple as a gift, and Allison said he would be honored to display it in his office.
“Who is more deserving of this?” says Stroud. “That is the perfect home for Jeff’s beautiful creation.”
Drs. Allison and Sharma say they find the Boot Walk support inspiring.
“A gift like this — made up of many donations from individuals who care about our mission — means the world to us,” they wrote in a thank-you note. “We know these gifts come from the heart and are important to every single donor who gave to this fund.”