Mother’s Day signifies so much to so many—celebration, gratitude, and yes, remembrance or loss. This year, we want to acknowledge just some of our many supporters who have taken their love for their moms and transformed it into a gift for our entire community.
Whether biking across the country or putting on a virtual play, the ways they have honored their mothers is inspiring. Perhaps reading their stories will inspire you to honor someone you love with a donation or a fundraiser of your own.
“She was the person I learned so much from growing up,” Andrew Berger says of his mother, Sharon. She taught him many life lessons, including the insight that even a small act of good can spiral into something great. When Sharon passed away from ovarian cancer in 2017, Andrew chose to dedicate his annual birthday party to his mother, asking his network to donate to ovarian cancer research in her memory. And that’s when he witnessed his mother’s words of wisdom bloom into a beautiful reality, as more than $40,000 was raised as a result of that fundraiser. He has continued this annual tradition in her name, which has brought in thousands of additional dollars for ovarian cancer research.
Though John Donzelli’s mom, Colleen, passed away in 2018 from ovarian cancer, her presence continues to loom large in his life. “I am the person I am today because of her,” says John, who learned through Colleen that you need to be ready in life to get outside your comfort zone. So naturally when John’s online followers (he’s a video game streamer in his spare time) urged him to dye his beard pink, he went full technicolor and turned his hair teal to raise funds for OCRA. This action led to an outpouring of support that far surpassed his expectations. “It’s the most I’ve ever raised for a charity in my life,” John says. Read more here.
For Matt Dorow, the best way to celebrate his mom’s resilience—and raise support for the cause—has been through revelry. His mother, Mary Lynn, has faced multiple recurrences since being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015. But through it all, she has continued to uplift those around her. “She has never lost her positive attitude and outlook on life and felt using her story to raise money and awareness was something that needed to be done,” Matt says. He has helped her realize this wish with Kicking Cancer One Dance at a Time, a fundraising party featuring live music.
Music has long served as a means of expression for Jesse Dunn, so when he wanted to honor his mom, Donna, he gifted her with a song. That was back in 2016, when Donna made the trip to meet Jesse’s newborn daughter just months after she had been diagnosed with ovarian and primary peritoneal cancer. “Of course, everyone was crying,” Jesse recalls of the moment he and his wife Jenni played it for her. “It symbolized what we had been through and what I felt about her.” The piece continued to evolve though the years and gained a new layer of significance when Jesse decided to direct proceeds and donations from the song to ovarian cancer research after his mother passed away in 2019.
“She always told me I was her medicine, but the truth is that she was mine,” says Jaimie Kushner of her mother, Janet. After Janet was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, her self-described Type A daughter tasked herself with helping—and not just her mom, but the wider ovarian cancer community, too. The year after her mom was diagnosed, Jaimie held a fundraiser at a bar where some friends worked and raised $6,000. The next year, she planned an Ovarian Cycle spin event. Jaimie’s mom died less than two weeks before it took place. “I think I cried through the entire thing,” Jaimie says. But in a fitting tribute to a woman who always focused on taking care of others, Jaimie and her brother raised $62,000 for ovarian cancer research in her name.
Shaun Matza admits that choosing to take on a challenge of running 48 miles in 48 hours may seem like a “crazy idea” to some, but it makes perfect sense to him given the nature of his cause. He signed up as a way to raise funds for ovarian cancer research in memory of his mother, Elizabeth, who passed away from the disease nearly 20 years ago. “The accountability to her and this fundraiser has been the motivational driver to hit the pavement and put in the miles for preparation,” says Shaun, who was joined in the challenge by his friend Marcus Madiman. “It feels only fitting that we push ourselves to the limit in an effort to support the fight against cancer.”
Since Peter Schmidt and his mother, Carol, shared a love of singing, he found the perfect way to pay homage to her by writing and directing a musical play based loosely on their relationship. “My mom sang with the Bach Choir of Bethlehem for many years—the play’s title ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’ is the title of a Bach cantata—and I am a singer, too, so it was natural to fit music into the piece,” Peter says. The play has not only served as a tribute to Carol, who died from ovarian cancer in 2006, but also as a way for Peter to make a difference for others impacted by this disease. Once the play was written, he assembled a talented cast of actors from across the country to perform the play virtually as a fundraiser for the ovarian cancer community. The pre-recorded performance was broadcast on YouTube in 2021 to benefit OCRA.
“She was the only woman I’ve loved, truly, in my life, in that capacity where you love someone as much as you can,” says Andrew Simone of his mother, Kathryn, who passed away from ovarian cancer in 2017. He knows he’ll never fully heal from her loss, but he’s channeled his grief into the goal of helping give other families more time together. “I ride for the hope of a cure, or medicine that can prolong life so that more people can have more memories of their loved ones,” Andrew says. He has now logged several thousand miles cycling around the country on fundraising trips, which he’s fittingly dubbed Mama’s Miles.
As a cancer researcher, Jonathan Sockolosky knows just how significant grants are for moving science forward. So, when he searched for a way to mark the two-year anniversary of his mom’s death from ovarian cancer, raising funds for research seemed like the most meaningful action to take. He did so by turning to his love of fitness, which he credits his mother, Shelley, with having instilled in him. Jonathan kicked off a social media campaign in 2018 that generates donations based on the miles he runs. This endeavor and his various other fundraising efforts have resulted in thousands of dollars in donations to support scientists helping the ovarian cancer community. It’s a perfect way to carry on the legacy of his mother, whose kindness shone on so many. “She went out of her way to support and accept so many people,” Jonathan says.
Sally Trosset’s three children describe their mom as someone who was wholly dedicated to running until she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer nearly two years ago. “Before her diagnosis, she was an avid runner who stressed the importance of not only running for your physical health but for the benefits it brings to your mind and soul, too.” The significance of this sport in their mother’s life is what spurred the Trosset siblings, Teddy, Kate, and Lindsey, to travel from different states to reunite and run a half-marathon together. The goal? Honor their mom and her love of running while raising money for ovarian cancer research. “We run for our mom and the [thousands of] other women diagnosed every year!”
A mother’s courage is what has motivated Chris Turner to go the extra mile(s), literally, since he first began long-distance running in 2016. Just weeks before his mother, who he refers to as the “late, great Carla Fay Turner” passed away from ovarian cancer in 2018, Chris had worked himself up to running multiple marathons in a single weekend. He dedicated the races to Carla with a singular reason in mind: “to prove that her persistence to push pain aside for almost two decades had ultimately made me a mentally stronger human.” Though she is no longer physically present, Carla continues to inspire her son to push the limits of his endurance. He even tackled his first ultra-marathon in 2021 to raise money for ovarian cancer community—in memory of Carla and in honor of all those living with the disease now or in the future. Read more here.
We know there have been so many more OCRA Heroes whose mothers have inspired them to give back to the ovarian cancer community. Though we don’t have space here to include all the incredible stories that our supporters have shared through the years, we are profoundly grateful to each and every one of you. Thank you for everything you have done, and continue to do!