Susan Friedman was inspired to start Dancing For A Cure when her best friend of 40 years, Karen Schek, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006. “I really wasn’t sure what to do,” recalls Susan. “I owned a dance studio at the time, so I put up a notice on the bulletin board asking if anyone was interested in doing a fundraiser for ovarian cancer. I immediately got a response from someone whose sister-in-law had just passed away.” Susan also learned that three women whose children studied at the studio were currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. “It just made sense to put the two together,” says Susan.
That notice on a bulletin board grew into a holiday performance featuring scenes from The Nutcracker, songs from community members and remarks by survivors of breast and ovarian cancer. In its first year, the holiday performance raised $7,000 for breast and ovarian cancer research. After three years, the event grew so large it needed to be moved to a local school.
Today, the holiday performance features inspirational dances and remarks by medical professionals whose work is funded by the event. The weekend typically raises $50,000, which is donated to Friends of Dana-Farber, Boston—half for breast cancer research and half for ovarian cancer research.
Dancing For A Cure now hosts a second dance fundraiser each spring, a dance marathon that raises $10,000. “So many groups do walks,” says Susan. “A dance marathon made sense for us.” Students gather pledges in exchange for their participation, then they dance for four hours to raise funds for cancer research.
In addition to the dance fundraisers, Dancing For A Cure hosts smaller events like a teal toes day at a salon. One local restaurant donates 40 percent of sales each election day. Over the summer, the organization coordinates “hospitality days,” when volunteers visit a local infusion center and hospital to give inspirational messages to women undergoing cancer treatment.
Susan first heard of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance through Ribbons to Remember, another ovarian cancer nonprofit based on Cape Cod. “It turns out she lives in the same town as me!” says Susan. The two groups often talk and collaborate on projects, since they have different focuses: “Dancing For A Cure focuses more on funding research, and her organization focuses more on education,” notes Susan.
As Susan learned more about the Alliance’s Partner Member program, she decided to join it in 2013. “I love hearing about what other people are doing creatively for fundraising, and I thought it would be a nice thing to get involved with somebody on more of a national level. It’s great to connect with other people who have the same passion for all things related to ovarian cancer.”
Susan’s friend Karen passed away a year ago in March, but Susan continues her work. “I promised her I wouldn’t give up the fight.”