Putnam City Schools officials this week presented the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation with a check for $60,000 to support cancer research at the Oklahoma City nonprofit.
The district’s total contributions to OMRF since 1975 exceed $3.8 million.
“Putnam City Schools values our decades-long partnership with OMRF,” said Dr. Fred Rhodes, the district’s superintendent. “Our fundraising includes both districtwide events like the Putnam City Cancer Classic 5K and separate projects at our 27 school sites. We’re both pleased and proud to be able to raise these significant amounts of money throughout the school year to help give back to OMRF.”
Now in its 47th year, Putnam City’s annual cancer drive stretches across the academic year. It has included everything from carnivals and bake sales to car washes and the chance to dump slime on teachers in exchange for donations.
Putnam City High School teacher Lois Thomas started the drive in 1975 in response to the recent cancer-related deaths of four colleagues and the diagnosis of the district’s superintendent. Thomas organized a change drive like the ones she had participated in as a child to combat polio. “She really did think, ‘If everybody gave pennies, look how much money that would be,’” said her daughter, Carolyn Churchill.
Since then, the millions of dollars raised by students, teachers and staff have paid for research, supplies and established OMRF’s Putnam City Schools Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research.
Work at OMRF has led to an experimental drug now undergoing clinical trials at the OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center and 12 other sites around the U.S. to treat patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. The drug has also shown promise in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a fast-growing pediatric cancer that starts in the brain stem.
“We are so grateful to Putnam City Schools for their long-standing support of our cancer research,” said OMRF scientist Linda Thompson, Ph.D., who holds the Putnam City Schools Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research. “Every year, students or teachers come up with some creative new fundraising mechanism. Their ingenuity is amazing, and it’s very much appreciated.”