Partnership is a word you’ll hear often from the board members of Caring Together, a Partner Member of the Alliance in eastern New York. The support group was organized in 1996 by a survivor and nurse practitioner named Debbie Cullinan. “As the support group continued to grow, women and their families had a strong desire to raise money for research, and in 2000, Caring Together, Inc. was formed to legally receive contributions and have local control over where those monies went” recalls Mary. In September 2005, the support group started a partnership with Gilda’s Club to use that organization’s meeting space—a partnership that continues today through the American Cancer Society’s Hope Club.
“It’s become a world of partnerships, as far as we’re concerned,” says Mary Davis, President of Caring Together. “It’s in the best interest of our survivors—by partnering with other organizations, we can offer a network through which our survivors can access variety of services—beyond those that our support group can offer.”
One such organization is the Alliance. In the early 2000s, Caring Together collaborated with four other support groups and ovarian cancer organizations in eastern New York State, all of which received a grant from the Alliance to develop educational materials about ovarian cancer and a model for education and awareness outreach programs that could serve the needs of urban and rural environments. Caring Together continues to educate the public and health professionals about ovarian cancer, and has been active in the Alliance’s Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives® (STS) since the program’s early days. Volunteers with STS give presentations to medical, nursing and physician assistant students in the Albany, NY, area.
Other outreach to the public takes place at local health fairs and, starting in 2013, with an awareness table at the Washington County Fair. That effort was so successful that Caring Together plans to staff a table again at this year’s fair in August 2014.
Each year Caring Together hosts a Teal Ribbon Run/Walk to raise funds that support the group’s mission. This year’s event, scheduled for September 14, will be the 13th Annual Teal Ribbon Run/Walk. More than 1,000 people are expected to take part. “It’s a very moving event,” says Mary. “The run/walk is hugely supported by the community, by survivors, their families and friends, along with families who’ve lost their loved one to ovarian cancer.”
The majority of the monies raised by the Teal Ribbon Run/Walk help Caring Together fund ovarian cancer research. Since the establishment of the event in 2002, they have been able to raise more than $1,000,000 to support ovarian cancer research.. The organization currently partners with the Foundation for Women’s Cancer and the Lynne Cohen Foundation to help select appropriate research projects that receive a named grant from Caring Together.
In addition to funding research, Caring Together partners with three local hospital foundations to underwrite the costs of CA-125 testing and a transvaginal ultrasound for eligible women who are uninsured or under insured. “There are women who hold off getting testing done because they don’t have the money,” says Mary. By helping women afford testing, the Caring Together Ovarian Cancer Diagnostic Fund opens doors for other financial support for women who need treatment.
Mary notes that being a Partner Member of the Alliance “Brings the local organization to the national level, and the national organization to the local level.” While the organization focuses on women with ovarian cancer in eastern New York, its many partnerships help Caring Together raise awareness and offer support to a much broader community.