Friday, June 26, 2015

#Play4TheCure is Recruiting

It’s been a whirlwind month for the Play4TheCure program at the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR).  In June I saw firsthand the transformation from pink to lavender as student athletes continued to support cancer research for ALL CANCERS - with lacrosse joining the field hockey and soccer communities to Play4TheCure.  Because as we are learning from the Precision Medicine Initiative and the NCI MATCH trials, potential treatments actually follow a new paradigm: based on targeted treatment of specific “actionable” molecular abnormalities in cancers independent of the organ site. This is a fundamental shift in thinking in driving better results, it is in part an outcome of genomic research and reflective of the research approach NFCR has been supporting for many years.

As the Vice President of Development for the National Foundation for Cancer Research, I watched my Play4TheCure team work with The New Hampshire Youth Lacrosse Association and New England Coastal Lacrosse in Connecticut to do a great job raising money for cancer research while playing the game they love - lacrosse. I heard heartbreaking stories about families affected by cancer – breast, lung, colorectal, ovarian, lymphoma, myeloma, etc. – and the common theme was that it doesn’t matter the location of the cancer.  We are all in this together.  It has long been the vision of Tina Reinprecht, founder of Play4TheCure, to be more than just a pink cause; rather, she always envisioned the broader impact across all sports, and supporting research for all cancers.  And the science now supports this vision.

We’ve been so successful that NFCR’s Play4TheCure is raising the bar to grow into more sports programs that are looking for a focal point of community action to make a difference through a sport they love.  We are reaching out to parents, coaches, students, principals, athletic directors, schools and clubs to join us in powering cancer research through teamwork, raising awareness for both cancer research and the sport of your choice.  If you are interested in organizing a collaboration, please contact my Play4TheCure designated lead Katharine Farrar.  Katharine was a college athlete and is passionate about helping make a difference in the fight against cancer. Plan this summer to be ready to activate your team.  You can contact Katharine at or 301-961-9109.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Good Things Take Time

I spent Sunday in Niantic, CT at the New England Coastal Lacrosse (NECLAX) year-end tournament, the Coastal Jam.  It’s an annual event, where hundreds of youth lacrosse athletes and their families convene for a friendly competition, and celebrate another season of lacrosse.  Play4TheCure is privileged to join the event this year as a charity partner, working with the teams to raise money for cancer research and shine a spotlight on the game of lacrosse.  Play4TheCure is a signature fundraising program of the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR). Through this program, young athletes use their passion for sports to “Play4” loved ones affected by cancer.  The program started as a tribute to a mother fighting cancer and has grown to a powerful movement of tens of thousands of student athletes, playing for the cause. Now Play4TheCure is taking hold in lacrosse programs like NECLAX.

But those of us raising money for cancer research know that, like the research itself, good things take time to develop.  Fundraising, even for important cancer research is difficult.  Basic, exploratory research is critical – without this work, there would not be the breakthroughs that we hear so much about.  But because it is investing in discoveries that may take time, it requires patience, and the development of relationships between donors and the scientific community. Likewise, it will take time for Play4TheCure to become a tradition at the NECLAX Coastal Jam.  But we’ve learned that, over time, as the relationships get stronger, and partnerships solidify, the results are extraordinary. In field hockey last year, we had over 600 teams dedicate a game to Play4TheCure

Play4TheCure, like all successful fundraising programs, has developed a passionate following of loyal donors. I asked Eli Goldstein, Marketing Manager of Sports Events at NFCR, for his thoughts on the growth of Play4TheCure. He believes in the importance of teaching players the lessons of perseverance and dedication both on and off the field, and knows that it takes time to build traditions.  He says “A Play4TheCure tradition creates a bond between players for years by fostering a meaningful experience for each player. By making Play4TheCure a tradition we can learn from the previous years.”  He adds, “We have over 40 years of experience to know that the key to a breakthrough is patience - to continue to support a scientist until an idea becomes a discovery.”  Good things do not just happen overnight, and it takes years of doing things the right way in order for us to reach our goals. The NECLAX Play4TheCure Coastal Jam can become a tradition, and these communities will have a huge impact on cancer research.

Taking this long term view of building relationships is really at the core of how NFCR funds amazing cancer researchers.  And as I’ve written about in previous posts, philanthropic support for cancer research is critical. It’s best to hear them explain it in their own words.  Listen to Wayne Marasco, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the NFCR Center for Therapeutic Antibody Engineering at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. His research has been funded by the NFCR for 15 years.  He says “studies require a long term commitment to see them through to the end.”  When I first met him he used the words “continuous” and “reliable” to describe the funding he receives from NFCR.  And he talks a lot about the long term relationship he has developed with NFCR.  People who know me will hear me say this all the time – “It’s about relationships.” I appreciate working with people who share my commitment to the long term.