For the founders of OCERN, the Ovarian Cancer Education & Research Network, Inc., becoming a Partner Member of the Alliance was a “no brainer.” Executive Director Gina Dayton notes that the founders believed in a three-pronged approach to ovarian cancer outreach: “We wanted to advance research and continue to educate others about the symptoms—but we also needed a voice in legislation. That’s where the Alliance came in. We can’t fulfill that piece of the puzzle, but can partner with a national organization that does this so well.”
Founded just a few years ago by four women whose lives were touched by ovarian cancer—two survivors and two women who lost their mothers to the disease—OCERN works in Sacramento and throughout Northern California to raise awareness and direct funds to research. “If we can help contribute in some small way to a diagnostic test or better treatments in our lifetimes, then we feel we’ve made a difference,” says Gina.
One of the main sources of OCERN’s funding is the Let’s ROC!! Run for Ovarian Cancer, an annual event the group has been organizing for seven years, originally under the auspices of another nonprofit and now as an OCERN event. The 2013 Let’s ROC!! raised more than $35,000 from 1,200 participants. A portion of the proceeds from last years’ event will support a research grant to a local scientist selected by the group’s Medical Advisory Board. “It is important that our participants see where the money they raise is going,” notes Gina, “and that we’re being good stewards of their donations.” This year’s run/walk is scheduled for September 14.
OCERN also works to educate the community in Sacramento about ovarian cancer. Through a speaker’s bureau, volunteers present information on ovarian cancer to three classes at Sacramento State University each fall and spring, and they are working to add additional classes at local community colleges. Volunteers from OCERN also attend local health fairs and speak with local groups about the disease as well as participate in Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives® at the University of California, Davis and Stanford University.
As a fairly new, all-volunteer organization, OCERN is growing slowly. “We’re trying to keep things manageable,” says Gina. One of the next projects they hope to tackle is to offer support services to local women with ovarian cancer, whether through a support group or another initiative. In the meantime, being a Partner Member of the Alliance allows OCERN, in Gina’s words, “to be part of something much larger while maintaining our local autonomy.”