At first glance, Jonathan Sockolosky and Andrew Berger, may seem like they have very little in common. Jonathan lives in San Francisco and is a scientist, while Andrew lives in New York, and works in the finance industry. Different as they appear, there is one thing that unites them: their connection to ovarian cancer.
Both men lost their mothers to this devasting disease and have dedicated their lives to raising awareness and funds for ovarian cancer research. To honor their mothers, they have raised thousands of dollars through various pre-pandemic events, and then online initiatives, and have rightly earned the title of “OCRA Hero.”
Now, they are engaging in some friendly competition in OCRA’s Coast to Coast fundraising battle. Two coasts, one goal: raise as much money as possible for cutting-edge ovarian cancer research. (Okay, one more goal — earn bragging rights.)
“After my mom died, I couldn’t shake this urge to do something big. I wanted to give back and keep her memory alive,” says Jonathan about losing his mother Shelley in 2016. He wrestled with the idea of doing something on a massive scale, such as creating a foundation in her honor. But as he worked through his grief, he began to realize that he could give back by turning to a passion that his mom had passed down to him — a love of fitness. An avid runner, he started a social media campaign that generates donations based on the miles he logs. In 2019, he put a festive twist on his fundraising efforts by holding a benefit at a wine bar. And when the pandemic forced the cancellation of his event planned for 2020, Jonathan turned to social media once again and held a virtual fundraiser that raised thousands for ovarian cancer research. “I really want there to be a day when no woman or mother, no son or daughter, father or husband, has to go through the loss of a loved one,” Jonathan says. “Ovarian cancer research is vastly underfunded. And together, we can help change all that.”
New York City
“When I lost her, I kind of lost the only person that I had to guide me,” says Andrew about the death of his mother Sharon in 2017. Still grieving when his birthday rolled around several months later, Andrew planned a different take on the typical festivities. He gathered people together to pay tribute to his mother and raise money for ovarian cancer research in her memory, a party so special that it became an instant tradition. “Seeing my friends and family get together each and every year to both support me and this really important cause has brought such a light to my life,” Andrew says. And though an in-person gathering had to be postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, the spirit of giving still shone bright. People began messaging him to see if they could donate, which motivated Andrew to send out fundraising appeals via email. The response was beyond his expectations, resulting in thousands raised. “I happen to be in a field that measures success in a monetary way, but that doesn’t determine who you are,” Andrew says. “It’s what you do with that that determines the kind of person you are.”
Are you a true New Yorker? Or is your heart in San Francisco? Team science or finance aficionado? You can still show your support for one (or both!) of these heroes, and bring us all closer to a cure, with a contribution to their Coast to Coast fundraising challenge!