A few sage words of advice from his wife changed Bobby Jones' life: "If you feel this way, do something about it."
It was 1997, and one of Jones' close friends had just been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. They had met through the Deerwood Golf Club in Kingwood. As news spread, the entire golf group grew more devastated. Then, the golfers were hit with another blow when their assistant pro developed a brain tumor a few months later.
"Most of the time, the easiest way for us to help out was to write a check," says Jones. "But in this case, that just wasn't enough."
Jones and his friends created Golfers Against Cancer (GAC) and in six weeks raised $80,000.
"Our purpose was to show our two friends that we really cared about them," says Jones. "It was only later when we started allocating the money that we got excited about what the money could do."
To date, GAC has funded more than $1.87 million for cancer research at MD Anderson. Jones credits the group's success to the strictly volunteer-based structure of the organization.
"That's really our secret sauce," he says. "There are no paid executives; it's all volunteers. People really feel like they own the organization, and they do."
MD Anderson remains one of GAC's primary beneficiaries.
"It's the leading cancer research center in the world, it's in Houston, we have direct relationships with the researchers and administration and it's treated so many of our friends," says Jones. "We know that our money going to MD Anderson can do more, or as much as it can going anywhere else."
Since 1997, GAC has made possible 23 research projects, among others, at MD Anderson that:
- Tested a screening strategy for early-stage ovarian cancer in more than 5,000 women where no more than three operations were required to detect each case of ovarian cancer
- Detected early-stage cancer in nine of 12 women (75%) by the screening where only 20% of early-stage cases would be expected
- Leveraged nearly $2 million in funds from the National Cancer Institute through the Ovarian Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) program and $50,000 from The Jane P. and Wiley L. Mossy Jr. Foundation