The Start of Ovarian Cancer Awareness in Central Ohio
The local chapter the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Ohio (OCAO) began as the Central Ohio Chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) in approximately 1999. One of the initial hallmarks of the earlier fundraising and ovarian cancer awareness campaigns was the 5K Walk for the Whisper. The group also began working with treatment centers, gynecological oncology offices and other various organizations, leaving their mark by providing symptom cards and other educational materials in these offices and at local health fairs.
Over time the name of the annual awareness walk was changed to the Break the Silence 5K Walk/Run. The name change was designed to encourage people to talk about a disease with vague and often silent symptoms. The hardworking women behind the event helped it grow from an average of 500 to 2,000 people coming from all across Ohio.
As Break the Silence grew in size, ovarian cancer awareness also grew and with that, member participation in the NOCC. More women were being diagnosed or had family or friends with the disease. The need to increase awareness and do more at a local level was becoming abundantly clear. However, at the national level, the NOCC had made the decision to stick to the motto “one mission and one voice.” Most money raised at the local level would fund national education and awareness campaigns. This money would not directly help members of the central Ohio community and localized awareness campaigns were not possible.
A New Beginning
In the autumn of 2008, a new board was elected in central Ohio. After countless discussions, the decision was made to break from the NOCC and form a new independent organization. This organization would work at a local level throughout central and southern Ohio to advocate for women with this disease. It would also raise awareness and provide educational programming about ovarian cancer, provide outreach for survivors and their families, and fund national organizations that contributed to ovarian cancer awareness.
The Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Ohio (OCAO) was created as the result of this decision. Organized by nine founding members, the goal was to ensure that the voices of Ohio women who were battling this disease and those of the women who had fought and lost would not go unheard.
The initial nervousness that the break from an established national organization might have negative implications for some sponsors and members couldn’t have been further from the truth. Fundraising in 2009 was on target with 2008 and even stormy weather and ensuing downpour couldn’t deter people from participating in the Strides for Hope 5K Walk/Run.
The separation has also enabled the organization to expand contacts and participate in numerous corporate and community health fairs, engage in public speaking and expand relationships with the treatment centers. Many potential sponsors were previously reluctant or even unwilling to donate funds that would not remain in Ohio.
In addition, it has provided an opportunity to bring more partners into the mix. The OCAO has partnered on more than one occasion with the Sisters Network to raise awareness about ovarian and breast cancer, stressing the genetic link between the two. This partnership allows the OCAO to join the Sisters Network and their other aligned organizations, such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation, American Cancer Society, and Pan Can, among others, to testify about various health care initiatives and how they impact the cancer community at a state legislative level.
Not wanting to eliminate the ability to work at a national level, the OCAO has become a partner member of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. This partnership allows all money raised to remain at a local level but provides the OCAO with national news on ovarian cancer regarding legislative initiatives, research and events. It also allows the OCAO to partner with ovarian cancer organizations across the country.
The Ovarian Cancer of Alliance Today
What began as a small walk at Easton Towne Center has now become a growing regional movement that is recognized throughout the Ohio community. This remarkable growth has been sparked by the hard work of members, volunteers and sponsors to further the cause.