Garding Against Cancer Raises $225,000 for Cancer Initiatives and Services in La Crosse
When Eagles and Badgers come together, good things happen.
In an exhibition game on November 1, 2019, the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team squared off against UW-La Crosse at the Kohl Center in Madison. While the Badgers topped the Eagles 82-53, it wasn’t the final score that was the most important number of the night.
Thanks to fundraising efforts in the La Crosse area prior to the game, about $225,000 was raised for cancer research and prevention efforts through Garding Against Cancer, the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association initiative founded by Badger head coach Greg Gard and his wife Michelle. That money was distributed to four La Crosse area organizations to help fund initiatives based on community need, and representatives from each organization were on hand for a check presentation during halftime of the game.
While the Gards support cancer research at the UW Carbone Cancer Center, they are passionate about advancing cancer research across Wisconsin.
“The Garding Against Cancer funding allows us the opportunity to look closer at several cancer priorities and be thoughtful of how we address the risks and prevention messages,” said Paula Silha with the La Crosse County Health Department, one of the groups that received funds.
One of those priorities is melanoma. Along with Gundersen Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System, the La Crosse County Health Department received $50,000 to fund skin cancer screenings, education, and prevention efforts. Data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows that the melanoma rate in La Crosse County is higher than the state average.
Silha and her agency are currently gathering and assessing specific data on melanoma among La Crosse County residents, to determine if there are any special characteristics that could inform prevention efforts. The combination of that data and the new funding will allow the agency to roll out evidence-based strategies in the near future.
Both Gundersen and Mayo will use the funds to bolster their annual skin cancer screening event. The two health systems have been working together for several years to put on this free event, which alternates between being hosted at their two locations in La Crosse.
“We are thrilled to be the recipient of these funds, and to be able to put them to work in the community,” said Mandy Nogle, director of development for the Gundersen Medical Foundation. “It’s important to work outside the walls of our health system.”
Gundersen will host the next event in January 2021, and expects to see more than 300 participants. To help promote the event, fliers will be delivered to area businesses where employees may be getting a great deal of sun exposure, such as construction or landscaping companies.
In addition to the skin cancer prevention funds, both Gundersen and Mayo received $30,000 each to expand access to cooling caps for cancer patients. These devices, worn throughout chemotherapy treatment, slow blood flow to hair follicles, which can reduce hair loss or prevent it from happening.
“When we speak with patients about the need for chemotherapy, the moment we most often see tears is when we discuss hair loss,” said Paula Gill, MD, an oncologist with Mayo Clinic in La Crosse. “For many it represents the time when their personal battle becomes public and serves as a constant reminder that they have cancer and are fighting for their lives. With the use of the cooling cap, we can help to calm at least a little bit of that fear and anxiety.”
The caps are FDA approved for patients with most forms of solid tumor cancer, but it’s not a guarantee that patients’ insurance will cover the cost of their use. That’s where this new funding will help.
“With the funds supplied to patients through Garding Against Cancer, we can continue to provide cancer care for the whole person, recognizing the many emotions that chemotherapy-induced hair loss evokes,” Gill said.
Finally, the all-volunteer Sparta Area Cancer Support, Inc. received $15,000 to continue and bolster the work they’re already doing in the region. “Our mission is to support for area cancer patients and funding for local research,” said Karen Edwards, the organization’s president. That includes financial assistance with things like medical and prescription bills, gas cards, groceries and rent payments. It also includes transportation to chemotherapy or radiation appointments for those who do not or cannot drive.
“Many deep thanks to Garding Against Cancer for their generous support,” Edwards added. “This helps us to help more of our families in need.”
Date Published: 03/17/2020