Partner Member Profile: St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness

2012 marks the 10th anniversary of St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness (SLOCA), a Partner Member dedicated to raising awareness, funding ovarian cancer research and supporting women with the disease in the greater St. Louis area. The group’s founder, Christina Carr, was an ovarian cancer survivor who wanted to be sure other women knew about this disease. She convened a group of three other survivors and three nurses to create SLOCA.

The founders’ first activity was to piece together a quilt, which they raffled off to raise money for the fledgling organization. Those funds were used for the founders to travel to an Ovarian Cancer National Alliance conference in Washington, DC. “They learned about the Partner Member program and how to be local advocates,” says Beth Hudson, President of SLOCA.

The group soon became a Partner Member of the Alliance, and continues to value that association. “Being a Partner Member really lends credibility to our organization,” notes Beth. She hopes to take advantage of the benefits and training offered to Partner Members in the coming year.

As its name implies, awareness is a key focus of SLOCA’s programs and activities. Beth says their “number one” awareness activity is the Alliance’s Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives® program. “Through the medical students and nurse practitioner students, we feel we are reaching so many people.” One testament to the program’s strength is that a local nurse practitioner program, which does most of its teaching through online classes, devotes an hour to STS during the one week that students spend on campus.

SLOCA also runs a speaker’s bureau that sends survivors to talk with church groups, community groups, and lunch-and-learns—“Wherever people will listen to our message,” notes Beth. Volunteers also attend health fairs and conferences to get the word out about ovarian cancer.

During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in September, the Cardinals host an ovarian cancer awareness night at Busch Stadium. This event was one of founder Christina Carr’s ideas, but she passed away before seeing it happen. Now, SLOCA regularly sells out 500 tickets to the game, and raffles off the opportunity to throw out the first pitch that night. In 2011, the group also got permission to turn a large fountain near Busch Stadium teal. During the week that the water was tinted teal, SLOCA volunteers stood near the fountain at lunchtime and handed out information about ovarian cancer.

One event is already in the works for September 2012: a day-long conference for ovarian cancer survivors, scheduled for September 15. SLOCA is hosting the event along with the Cancer Support Community, another Alliance Partner Member. Sessions will cover topics like nutrition, the CA-125 test and changes in sexuality following a cancer diagnosis.

Another key element of SLOCA’s mission is funding research. The group works with the Foundation for Women’s Cancer to pick an ovarian cancer research project to fund, and gives away $25,000-50,000 annually.

The last piece of SLOCA’s mission is providing support to survivors in the greater St. Louis area. In addition to programs like the upcoming conference, the group provides support through “Sister Gifts.” Newly diagnosed women receive a package from SLOCA containing materials like a ball cap, CD, water bottle, list of local resources and an encouraging letter from the organization. The group expects to give away about 200 Sister Gifts this year to women in the St. Louis area.

As SLOCA and the Alliance celebrate anniversaries this year, both groups continue to work as partners, supporting women in St. Louis and across the nation who are facing the challenges of ovarian cancer.