When Jean Shipos had an ovarian cancer recurrence back in 2003, her daughter knew that she wanted to do something based on what she saw her mother go through. Fast-forward three years, Jean and her daughter decided to host a small tea party to help raise awareness of the disease. This “small” tea ended up being much larger than originally anticipated, with 250 people in attendance that first year! From 2006 forward, the Annual Tea has become the signature event of the Teal Tea Foundation. This year marks their 10th anniversary, so the Teal tea on May 14th will be an extra-special event, complete with dinner and dancing. The 2016 tea will be held in honor of Anita Sapnar, a long-term member who lost her fight with ovarian cancer in October 2015, as well as those “sisters” who have passed over the last 10 years.
When the Teal Tea Foundation became an incorporated non-profit in 2008, their mission expanded to include funding ovarian cancer research. Throughout the year the Foundation helps fund innovative research projects both locally and around the country, including at Temple Fox Chase Cancer Center and MD Anderson Cooper Cancer Institute. The Teal Tea Foundation is also a large funder of the Stand Up to Cancer Ovarian Cancer Dream Team, a multi-year research project focused on DNA Repair Therapies for ovarian cancer.
The Foundation’s mission also focuses heavily on awareness efforts about the disease. Volunteers from the group attend health fairs in the area and speak about ovarian cancer at health clubs and doctors’ offices. They also give talks to local groups outside of the health world, such as rotary clubs. Through their “Sock it to Cancer” teal soccer sock sale, local sports teams and their supporters are able to raise awareness of ovarian cancer both on and off the field. The Teal Tea Foundation also participates in Turn the Towns Teal® each September, for National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In 2015, with the help of local Advisory Board Member Assemblyman Daniel Benson’s Office and Youth Leadership Program volunteers, they were able to turn seven cities in their area teal!
Along with raising awareness in the community, the Teal Tea Foundation works to support women who are diagnosed with gynecologic cancers through their Give Women A Lift program. This unique program provides up to $250 in transportation costs for women with a gynecologic cancer in the New York, New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania areas, who are facing financial hardship due to their cancer diagnosis. In the five years since it began, the Give Women A Lift program has assisted hundreds of women undergoing treatment, to travel between home and their cancer center, hospital or doctor’s office. And through their FIGHT (Friendly Inspired Greetings and Heartfelt Thoughts) program, Teal Tea volunteers provide encouraging cards to women undergoing chemotherapy to let them know that they aren’t alone in their fight against ovarian cancer.
The Teal Tea Foundation values partnership and collaboration with other organizations and local agencies. Jean poignantly stresses the importance of coming together as “one force to make a difference” in the ovarian cancer community. One of the ways they do so is through the Alliance’s Partner Member program. Jean notes that this partnership gives the Foundation a national presence, and that the network of 60+ organizations demonstrate how we are all united in the same fight against ovarian cancer. This past year the Foundation took a leadership role in coordinating and funding the gynecologic symposium hosted by the New Jersey Department of Health, an event that united the whole state for a common cause. It allowed women and men to learn about prevention, detection and treatment of ovarian cancer, impact on sexuality and intimacy along with the psychological impact, access to clinical trials and much more.
Looking ahead we can only expect that the Teal Tea Foundation will continue to expand on its foundation of awareness and research funding, all while providing support for the women within the local ovarian cancer community.