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The fight to save lives from breast cancer became rooted in Stacy Matseas, now a dedicated Making Strides Against Breast Cancer volunteer and fundraiser, in 2000 when her childhood friend was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33. In an effort to take action against a disease that hit too close to home, Stacy joined a Making Strides event, and since then has personally raised more than $1.3 million for the cause!
While most would feel ecstatic about this accomplishment, Stacy felt there was more that she could do. She had an idea that simmered for a while, almost unconsciously, until she attended an American Cancer Society Laureate Society meeting where she learned about the Society’s research program.
A few years later, she had heard Shannon Stott, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, speak and had the opportunity to visit the researcher’s lab. Dr. Stott co-invented a device that can successfully capture cancer cells circulating in the blood stream of localized and metastatic cancer patients. This technology has been used to explore the biology of these extremely rare cells, identifying novel pathways for metastasis and bringing us a small step closer to understanding how cancer spreads and kills. The American Cancer Society awarded Shannon a $128,000 three-year grant, launching her career.
Shortly after that lab tour, Stacy was invited to attend another which continued to open her eyes to the American Cancer Society’s extramural research program. She learned that the Society has the means to fund just 10 percent of all grant requests received. She also learned that 75 percent of the researchers funded will go on to get funding from the National Cancer Institute and was reminded that 47 of the researchers funded have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.
The message was clear: if you want to make a big impact, invest in the American Cancer Society research program.
"I became very impassioned, and I knew that I needed to share more information about the American Cancer Society’s research with my donors and other volunteers. Shannon's story really reached out and grabbed me, and I knew it would intrigue my donors," Stacy said.
So she posed this question: "What if I could get 16 people to donate $10,000 each for a pay-if grant?" On October 6, 2016, after laying a lot of ground work, including one-on-one conversations with her Making Strides donors, Stacy assembled 28 people for a formal presentation on American Cancer Society-funded research. The group was made up of potential donors, staff, researchers, and friends helping make sure the evening flowed smoothly.
"Individuals were enthused to learn about the young researchers the American Cancer Society funds early in their careers. They were inspired by the thought of becoming intimately involved with the grant that their "investments" would ultimately fund," she said. "Individuals said that they were grateful to be invited to participate in something that resonated as having such meaningful impact."
By February 6, 2017, she succeeded in raising the necessary $163,500 to fund a pay-if grant. "Ten of the 15 potential check writers who attended the October research presentation did participate in the actual pay-if funding. Our final funding group was made up of 15 participants contributing between $5,000 and $26,000," Stacy said. All those who donated $10,000 or more were invited to help choose the grantee.
The beneficiary is Miguel Santiago-Medina, Ph.D., at the University of California San Diego, a young investigator studying metastasis, the leading cause of death in cancer patients. He hopes his discoveries will lead to the development of antimetastatic therapies.
"I am still pinching myself," said Stacy. "My hope is that we now have a case study to inspire other volunteers to do the same." With the completion of her most recent pay-if campaign, Stacy and her Making Strides Against Breast Cancer team, Stacy's Circle of Friends, have raised over $2 million for the Society over the past 17 years.
Passionate volunteers like Stacy are supporting the fight against breast cancer by taking part in Making Strides events in their communities across the nation this year. Sign up for an event in your area or consider making a donation to the cause by visiting MakingStridesWalk.org.