The Vicki Welsh Fund for Ovarian Cancer began 10 years ago, with the goal of fighting ovarian cancer through awareness, education, research, and support. At the heart of the organization is Vicki Welsh, an outgoing and compassionate woman who lost her battle to ovarian cancer in 2006. Sadly, Vicki’s mother-in-law lost her own battle to ovarian cancer just three months later. Passionate about making sure no woman suffer like his mother and Vicki did, Vicki’s husband, Dave Welsh, and their friend, Deborah Grazda, established The Vicki Welsh Fund, under the Spelman Foundation. The Fund was committed to educating women about ovarian cancer, a wish of Vicki’s.
In 2013 the Vicki Welsh Fund broke off to become its own nonprofit organization. Vicki’s wish for the need to better educate women about ovarian cancer is still the focal point around the Fund’s programs today. The Vicki Welsh Fund works throughout the year to educate the community about ovarian cancer symptoms and risk factors by attending events such as health fairs and lunch and learns across the Kansas City area armed with literature on ovarian cancer, including a brochure they recently published. Gayle O’Connell, the Clinical Health Educator at the Vicki Welsh Fund, explains that they look to expand their outreach broadly, in order to reach as much of the community as possible. They do this by supporting community events and rallies, such as Relay for Life and National Cancer Survivor Day. The Vicki Welsh Fund also educates women in generally underserved populations in the metro Kansas City area. In addition to educating the general population, they also distribute the materials to hundreds of local ob-gyns, as a reminder for them to notice symptoms and to look at family history, in order to identify ovarian cancer and help to make a diagnosis earlier.
Raising awareness of ovarian cancer is another large part of the Vicki Welsh Fund’s mission. They do this on a large scale, by sponsoring radio and television PSAs. These usually feature a local gynecologic oncologist and survivor, to discuss the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. Another method they use to promote symptom awareness is with billboards across Missouri and Kansas. With so many methods of spreading awareness, the Vicki Welsh Fund ensures that many people are exposed to ovarian cancer symptom awareness.
Another way the Vicki Welsh Fund works to raise awareness in the Kansas City area is through their signature event, the Whisper Walk/Run, now in its 12th year. The attendees show up to this fun event in their best teal ensembles, united in the fight against ovarian cancer. The event has grown from year to year, with more than 2,000 people in attendance at the 2015 event, and is the largest ovarian cancer event in Kansas City! This year’s Whisper Walk/Run will take place on Sunday, September 25th in Kansas City. In early May of each year the Fund, in conjunction with Carolyn’s Pennies, hosts a Teal Tea. This event brings together more than 300 women, mainly survivors and caregivers, for a fun-filled afternoon among friends, sampling tea and hors d’oeuvres, complete with entertainment and a silent auction. Proceeds from this event go to supporting women in their fight against ovarian cancer by providing them with relaxing treatments.
In addition to education and awareness programs, the Vicki Welsh Fund provides vital research funding to the University of Kansas Cancer Center ovarian cancer research department. Since 2011 they’ve donated, over $100,000 for research funding! The majority of this research is focused on identifying genes that make cancer resistant to chemotherapy, which is a critical first step in targeting them to reverse chemotherapy resistance.
After working on a national event, the Vicki Welsh Fund became interested in expanding their national presence. “We are well-known in the Kansas City community, so we wanted to reach women outside the metro area,” says Gayle. They then became a Partner Member of the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, and are additionally looking to start a Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives® program in the Kansas City area. Looking towards the future, we can only expect that the Vicki Welsh Fund will continue to build on its foundation of education and awareness all while providing vital research funding in the local community.