Archive for Thursday, May 16, 2002

Relying on the Relay

American Cancer Society uses earnings for research, programs

May 16, 2002

Editor's note: The Eudora News will have a story focusing on a different aspect of the Relay for Life each week until the event, June 7 and 8.

An elementary school student learning about cancer in a mobile classroom, a breast cancer patient trying on a wig, and a Kansas University Medical Center scientist studying how viruses affect tumors have at least one thing in common: They rely on money raised from Eudorans participating in the Relay for Life.

The more than $50,000 Eudora raised at each event in the past couple years finds its way to various American Cancer Society programs in the state and around the nation. Money that doesn't go toward cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment or patient services goes back into fund-raising or toward management and other general concerns of the organization.

Some money raised in Eudora will go toward projects and programs in the Heartland division of the ACS, a region encompassing Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Oklahoma. For instance, the mobile classrooms that teach children how to live a healthy life are a program unique to the division.

"We're the big semi that goes around," said Dustin Yowell, ACS director for public relations and marketing for the Heartland division.

The mobile classroom is based in the Kansas City area.

"It seems like we all have the one thing that the others don't do," Yowell said of the different divisions. "It's kind of cool."

Other aspects of ACS financed by Relay for Life exist nation-wide.

"A lot of the breast cancer and prostate cancer (programs) are all the same because we all get our materials from the national offices and our training from national," Yowell said.

Even though the national ACS offices distribute money for cancer research, Yowell said researchers at nearby Kansas and Kansas State universities, as well as the KU Medical Center, received funding from Relays.

"Just in our own four states we have seven research (operations)," Yowell said. "Missouri has a lot of research because of St. Louis University and Washington University."

More than $1.5 million in research money comes back to Kansas, said Michelle Olson of the American Cancer Society in Topeka.

"Cancer research has paved the way for chemotherapy treatment and has helped treat children for leukemia," she said. "We're finding ways to enhance the mammogram and pap spear."

Every man who had test for prostate cancer benefited from cancer research, she said.

In addition to research, Relay money finances ACS programs that touch cancer patients and their families directly. The organization offers seminars to help patients cope with the side effects of cancer treatment, transports patients to treatment facilities, and offers support groups to both patients and families.

One of those seminars, Look Good, Feel Better, is for women undergoing chemotherapy.

"It helps them cope with their appearance," Olson said. "We have a TLC catalogue of products for women in treatment and past treatment which has things like mastectomy forms and products."

Even those who are not affected by cancer benefit from programs aimed at detection and prevention of the disease, and activities that discourage children from smoking.

The organization has a stake in the political arena as well through its efforts at advocacy, which aim to ensure funding for cancer programs, ensure access to treatment, and push anti-tobacco legislation. A Eudora Relay for Life participant, Taylour Tedder, an Olathe middle school student, recently went to Topeka on an advocacy trip on behalf of the ACS. He and others went to the capitol to try and speak with state legislators about tobacco taxes.

Nearly 20 percent of the ACS's funds go back into fund-raising. Most communities get as much of their even underwritten or donated, but costs are still associated with putting on Relays, Olson said.

"I can't congratulate volunteers enough," she said. "These people represent the largest source of not-for-profit research in the U.S."

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