On Monday, Putnam City Schools officials presented the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation with a check for $100,000, marking 41 years of support for cancer research at OMRF. In all, the PC school district has raised more than $3.4 million for the Oklahoma City-based nonprofit institute.
While OMRF scientists benefit greatly from the support, Putnam City Schools Superintendent Dr. Fred Rhodes said the partnership is just as valuable for the students.
“We highly value the long time partnership we have had for so many years with OMRF,” said Rhodes. “While the goal has always been to do our part to help cancer research, the benefits for our students have surpassed all our expectations. Through real-life experiences, our students have learned the valuable character traits of being compassionate, generous and philanthropic. These are lessons that cannot be learned from a textbook, but life lessons that can only be learned through experience.”
For more than four decades, Putnam City students have gone door-to-door, orchestrated 5k runs and bake sales, put on volleyball tournaments and carnivals and more, all to benefit cancer research.
“The students and teachers from Putnam City Schools continue to surprise us every year with their remarkable commitment to philanthropy and their passion to support our research,” said OMRF Director of Development Allison Parker. “A 41-year partnership doesn’t happen by accident, and we know this is a special relationship.”
The Cancer Drive was started by former Putnam City teacher Lois Thomas, who chose to act when several coworkers were diagnosed with cancer in a short window of time. She and a small group of friends went door to door collecting money to combat the disease.
Thomas died in 2007, but her impact lives on through the hard work and determination of students and teachers across the district, as well as in the labs at OMRF.
In addition to funding research and supplies, the cancer drive established the Putnam City Schools Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research at OMRF, held by Linda Thompson, Ph.D. The funding has helped support numerous projects, including research from Thompson’s lab leading to a genetics-based risk assessment test for breast cancer.
Currently OMRF’s cancer research efforts include studying problems in cell division that set the stage for cancer to develop. Foundation researchers have also developed an experimental drug that is in ongoing clinical trials to treat a deadly form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.
“OMRF is honored to have this continued, long-lasting support from Putnam City, and we honor that commitment every day in labs across our campus,” said Parker. “These students are making a real difference in the fight against this horrible disease.”