It started when Gerald Ford was President, with students going door-to-door to collect change to fight cancer. In the four decades since, the Putnam City Schools cancer drive has raised an eye-popping $3.2 million—all of which has gone to fund cancer research at OMRF.
This week, Putnam City officials presented the district’s latest contribution in its ongoing partnership with the Oklahoma City foundation: a check for $98,000.
“We are so proud of the students at PC Schools, who have taken this fight to heart,” said Putnam City Schools Superintendent Dr. Fred Rhodes. “Each of us is touched by cancer in some way. They know the work they put into our fundraisers will have an impact around the world and right here at home.”
Countless bake sales, car washes and carnivals have raised the funds for Putnam City’s annual gifts to OMRF. The Putnam City Cancer Classic, a 5K run held each November, has become a fixture in the drive, with the event raising more than $5,000 each year.
The Putnam City Schools Cancer Drive was started in 1975 by Lois Thomas, then a teacher at Putnam City High School. When cancer struck three of Thomas’ fellow teachers and an administrator in a single year, Thomas organized a change drive to support cancer research at OMRF.
In years since, the effort has expanded, with proceeds now coming from garage sales, dances, volleyball marathons and other events. OMRF has used those proceeds to purchase a wide variety of sophisticated laboratory equipment, including high-powered microscopes, centrifuges and incubators.
The donations also established the Putnam City Schools Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research, which is held by OMRF scientist Linda Thompson, Ph.D. And Thompson’s research has helped create a risk assessment test for breast cancer.
“Putnam City students, faculty and parents have given unselfishly for decades to help us make progress in the fight against cancer,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “We admire their dedication and philanthropic vision and thank them for the part they play in finding treatments for a disease that affects so many.”
OMRF’s current cancer research efforts include studying how problems in cell division can set the stage for cancer, and foundation researchers have also developed an experimental drug—now undergoing clinical trials at the Stephenson Cancer Center—to treat a deadly form of brain cancer. In the past year, OMRF has expanded its cancer research efforts with the recruitment of a team of scientists focused on “precision medicine,” the use of genetic information to tailor treatments for individual cancer patients.
“Cancer is not a problem that will be solved easily,” said Prescott. “But the Putnam City Schools have chosen to take on this difficult battle. With their help, we can continue to unlock the mysteries of this deadly disease.”