Group forms to raise cancer research fundsNearly two dozen young professionals are harnessing their social, work and family networks to raise money for innovative cancer research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.
This Young Ambassadors group initially made a commitment to raise $35,000 to fund a VICC Discovery Grant, awarded to young cancer investigators who don't yet have significant government or industry support to test their scientific theories.
Over the course of the last year, the group raised more than $41,000, and Vanderbilt-Ingram's Board of Overseers secured $20,000 in additional funding for a second, smaller grant.
Members of the newly formed organization say the mission is personal. Emily Blake (EB) Jackson, chair of the philanthropic group, has watched three of her grandparents struggle with or succumb to cancer. EB's husband, Todd, and his family have had their own cancer challenges.
“Nearly everyone has a cancer story. My mother had breast cancer, my father had esophageal cancer and I had a brain tumor,” said Todd Jackson.
The group decided to focus on young cancer investigators who need a financial jumpstart to make inroads in cancer research.
“These are new researchers coming in with passion and vision and they may be the ones to develop a new cure for cancer,” said Kate Steinbeck.
Kate, and sister Carrie Steinbeck, joined the Young Ambassadors because of the care their father received at Vanderbilt while he was battling lung cancer.
Most members of the Young Ambassadors didn't previously know one another, but they have found common ground in their commitment to cancer research. They are using e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and other social media in addition to traditional outreach to raise funds. Beth Franklin, VICC Board of Overseers member, local philanthropist, and mother of Young Ambassador Ruth Franklin, has served as a mentor to the group.
The group awarded the first grant in the fall to Ryoma (Puck) Ohi.
Ohi has identified a potential weakness in cancer cells and if he is correct, this Achilles' heel could be a good target for chemotherapy treatments in multiple cancers.
For more information about the Young Ambassadors initiative, go to www.vicc.org/youngambassadors.