For 33 years, the students, parents and teachers of the Putnam City School District have made cancer Public Enemy No. 1.
If there’s a way to raise money, Putnam City has done it; from carnivals to bake sales to door-to-door fund drives. This year, the schools have added another weapon to the arsenal—a 5-kilometer run/walk.
The Putnam City Cancer Classic will be held Nov. 15 at Stars & Stripes Park at Lake Hefner. The classic includes both a 1-mile “fun run” and a full 5K event. Walkers and runners are welcome, and all proceeds from the events will go to cancer research at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
The school district’s long history of giving to OMRF began with teacher Lois Thomas, who passed away in 2007. She saw her fellow teachers and her students’ families dealing with an epidemic of cancer, and she decided to do something about it.
“When my grandmother would visit schools, one of the first questions she would ask is, ‘How many of you know someone who has or had cancer?’” said Becky Balenseifen, a Putnam City West High School teacher and Thomas’s granddaughter. “Almost every student and staff member would raise his or her hand. She felt like cancer touches everyone, so that’s why raising money for OMRF is so popular in our district and our community.”
Over the last 33 years, the district has donated more than $2.7 million to OMRF. Those gifts have purchased a variety of laboratory equipment and supplies and funded the Putnam City Schools Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research, held by Linda Thompson, Ph.D.
For their efforts, Putnam City’s Students will be honored by the Association for Fundraising Professionals on National Philanthropy Day, Nov. 14. The group will receive the AFP’s Outstanding Youth Making a Difference Award.
That difference is easy to see at OMRF, where cancer breakthroughs are still being made. Research by Drs. Robert Floyd and Rheal Towner has led to an experimental compound that could shrink and destroy a deadly brain cancer. In Thompson’s lab, the discovery of a genetic cancer link helped create OncoVue, the world’s first genetic-based risk assessment test for breast cancer.
“OMRF has done a great job letting the students know that 100 percent of their money stays right here in Oklahoma to pay researchers,” Balenseifen said. “It is very important to the students to know that when the cure is found, they have each played a part in finding it.
“My grandmother would be proud to know that students, employees and the community are still working together to help raise money to find a cure for cancer,” she continued. “The Cancer Classic would greatly impress her, because her goal was to reach out to other districts and communities, and this is just the event to reach that goal.”
Entry forms for the event are available online at www.omrf.org/cancerclassic. Runners can sign up in advance or the morning of the events, which begin at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 15 at Stars & Stripes Park on Lake Hefner.
For more information, contact Lauren Loruse at 271-8646 or at Lauren-Loruse@omrf.org.
Despite advances in diagnostic and treatment, cancer claims the lives of more than 500,000 Americans every year—more than 1,500 a day—according to estimates from the Center for Disease Control. Cancer is the country’s second leading killer and can strike any organ in the body.
OMRF (omrf.org) is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human disease. Chartered in 1946, its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease.