BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Every now and again, something good comes out of something bad. That is what happened when breast cancer brought Birmingham residents Bruce Sokol and Dolly O’Neal together in 1995. Bruce’s wife D. D. was undergoing cancer treatment and Dolly was, at the time, an 18-month breast cancer survivor. Both had been treated at the Cancer Center at the University of Alabama – Birmingham (UAB). They agreed that the best hope of ending breast cancer was through funding research, and decided to put their efforts toward raising funds for critical research that was happening right here in Alabama.
With the unfettered optimism of those who have never attempted such a thing, Bruce and Dolly rallied the local Birmingham community and held the inaugural Drive-Out Breast Cancer Golf Tournament. It raised $68,000, and soon after The Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama was established. Both D.D. and Dolly have since lost their battle with breast cancer, but their fight continues through the BCRFA, which has now raised over $8.7 million to fund research and save lives.
Today, the BCRFA raises money through individual gifts, a variety of fundraising events, corporate partnerships, and through the purchase of its specialty license plate – the Breast Cancer Research tag. Money raised is invested in collaborative and innovative breast cancer research including personalized and integrative medicine, genomics, and drug discovery with a goal to help diagnose, treat, prevent, and eliminate breast cancer. The money raised funds research right here in Alabama, but its impact is felt globally.
In northern Alabama, the BCRFA has supported research on biomarkers for immunotherapy response at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville. In central Alabama, the BCRFA ha supported drug development and discovery at Southern Research and a collaboration between researchers at The University of Alabama and UAB. Earlier this year, the BCRFA presented its largest gift ever of $1 million to support a variety of projects and initiatives at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB.
The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center is among the nation’s leading cancer research institutions and one of only 50 comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute. Patients from across Alabama and the region often come to UAB for their treatment to benefit from the clinical trials available. The BCRFA support extends down south to Mobile where projects are being funded at the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute.
How can you help the BCRFA? The BCRFA was founded through a grassroots effort and continues to thrive in the same way. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but there are ways you can support the BCRFA throughout the year. Almost half of the money that is raised for research comes from the sale of its specialty license plates, the Breast Cancer Research tag. Alabama residents can get one for their car or motorcycle at the DMV. The $50 per year fee is added to the registration fee, and the BCRFA receives $41.25 for every tag purchased. There are also community events taking place across Alabama that are not only fun but raise money for research. Visit BCRFA.org for details to check out the different events happening across the state. Have an event that you would like to benefit the BCRFA? Send an email to BCRFA@uab.edu or call 205-996-5463 to let the BCRFA know how you would like to support the cause.
One in eight women and one in a thousand men will be diagnosed in their lifetime. Thanks to Dolly O’Neal and Bruce Sokol’s first efforts, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama has been funding research and saving lives for over 20 years. Progress is being made but there is still work to be done. Thirty years ago, four out of five women who were diagnosed would lose their battle with this disease. Now that number is reversed with four out of five women conquering breast cancer!
Help make breast cancer a thing of the past. Find out how to get your Breast Cancer Research tag so that you, too, can fund research and save lives. Call 205-996-5463 or visit BCRFA.org or today.