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NYU Says, “What Seven Year Itch?”

According to the classic Marilyn Monroe comedy The Seven Year Itch, the steam can supposedly go out of a relationship when it reaches the seven-year point.  Fortunately, that phenomenon doesn’t apply to the relationship between the New York University College of Dentistry and the Oral Cancer Foundation, as the school’s recently-completed 7th Annual Oral Cancer Walk raised more money than any walk in the Foundation’s history.

The lead organizer of the 2012 walk was Devin Kuller, a fourth-year student due to graduate from dental school only a few weeks after the April 28 event.  Devin began his involvement with the walk by helping to unload supplies as a first-year student, and he took on increasingly more responsibility over the years.  “I did the bare minimum my first year,” said Devin, “but the bare minimum isn’t enough.  If you’re really going to give back, you have to do more.”  And more is exactly what he did.  Despite a hectic class schedule, for several months leading up to the walk Devin ran meetings of his organizing team every two weeks, and for the last month they met on a weekly basis.

Devin is quick to credit his team for the walk’s success, particularly his “right-hand person”—Alexis Cohen—and seven other “core” members who attended every meeting.  He also relied very heavily on Dr. Ross Kerr, a highly popular NYU professor who has been the walk’s long-time patron, and Glenn Marrus, Assistant Dean of Quality Control for the College of Dentistry.  “As he does every year, Dr. Kerr provided tremendously helpful advice and inspiration,” said Devin.  “He’s also a fabulous professor, although his Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology and Radiology course cut into my sleep at least as much as organizing the walk did!”  Devin has equal praise for Dean Marrus, who handled the logistics of securing the necessary approvals from the NYPD, signing insurance release forms, obtaining parade permits, and more.

One of the distinctive features of the NYU walk is that the location changes every year in an attempt to reach as many New Yorkers as possible.  In recent years walks have taken place in Harlem and the Bronx, so this year’s venue was Manhattan.  The starting point for the walk was the College of Dentistry, which is located on 24th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues.  The course took walkers through a variety of streets and neighborhoods, including Gramercy Park, Broadway, Lexington Avenue and Washington Square, near NYU’s main campus in Greenwich Village.

Making this 3.5 mile trek were approximately 600 people, many of whom were students and faculty from other New York-area  schools and facilities, including Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine and Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center.

Following the walk, people gathered in an outdoor plaza behind the dental school.  There refreshments were served while the head of NYU’s Audio Visual Department played the role of deejay.  Speakers included oral cancer survivor Kevin Ferrara.  Kevin told how his oral cancer required disfiguring jaw and neck surgery because it was not diagnosed until 18 months after he first noticed a lesion, and he urged the audience to not let his fate befall them.

Few dental schools are as focused on the cause of early detection of oral cancer as the NYU College of Dentistry “When we examine patients in the school’s Admission Clinic, we are really encouraged to perform comprehensive head and neck cancer exams,” said Devin Kuller.  “Most patients tell me they’ve never had an exam like that before.  And that’s unfortunate, because with the growth in the number of oral cancer cases being caused by the human papillomavirus, everyone should be receiving this kind of exam on an annual basis.”

The NYU College of Dentistry teaches its students not only how to properly examine their patients, but also how to give back.  And in light of the fact that the 7th Annual NYU Oral Cancer Walk raised over $36,000 for the Oral Cancer Foundation—more than any walk in the country has ever generated for the Foundation—it is clear that Devin Kuller and his fellow students are learning quite well. 

And they don’t believe in “the seven-year itch.”

Baltimore Walks to Make Oral Cancer History, and to Honor “Poppy”

On April 14, 2012, the Student National Dental Association (SNDA) chapter of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry held its fourth annual “Walk to Make Oral Cancer History.”  This year’s walk was particularly special, as it was dedicated to Rachel “Poppy” Kahan, a 27-year-old stage 4 oral cancer patient who had undergone extensive chemotherapy, radiation and surgery during the past year.

The lead organizer of the event was the president of SNDA, Kaisha Thomas, a very busy third-year student at the School of Dentistry.  Having served as a volunteer two years ago and an organizer last year, Kaisha was well aware of what it takes to orchestrate such an event.  And, with the help of approximately 20 volunteers from her school, Kaisha was able to put on what was by far the school’s most successful fundraiser yet.

The event took place at Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park, which features a lake surrounded by a track that made for the perfect venue for the 5K walk/run.  Of the estimated 140 people who turned out for the event, many were students and faculty members of the School of Dentistry, while many others were friends and family of Rachel Kahan.  Rachel’s supporters, clad in the green of her beloved Michigan State University alma mater, organized a walk-within-the-walk they called “Parade for Poppy.”

There are many costs associated with putting on a charity walk, including a park rental fee, chair and table rental fees, insurance fees, and food and beverage expenses.  To fund these costs, Kaisha and her SNDA team organized a “Scrubs Sale” in the fall of 2011.  For $38, a School of Dentistry student or faculty member could purchase a set of scrubs with her or his name embroidered.  The $3,000 profit resulting from the sale of over 200 sets of scrubs covered most of the event’s costs, including pre-walk refreshments for all participants and a barbeque after the walk.

Several people and sponsors donated prizes for the top fundraisers.  This included a gift certificate provided by a walker whose husband had recently died of oral cancer.  The top three fundraisers were Erica Cornu Knessi (whose father was an oral cancer victim), Lisa Spinoso and Sarah Mars Bowie. 

After Kaisha Thomas presented the prizes to the three winners, Dr. Robert Ord, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon form the University of Maryland Medical Center, spoke to the crowd about his extensive experience conducting head and neck cancer surgeries.  His words drove home just how severe the treatment for late stage oral cancer can be, and how critical it is to discover the disease at earlier and, better yet, precancerous stages.

Following the walk, third and fourth year students from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry gave oral cancer screenings under the supervision of Dr. Andrea Morgan, and those who were screened were given toothbrushes and toothpaste courtesy of the Children’s Oral Health Institute.  In addition, Dr. Michael Knorr from Wal-Mart vision gave eye exams to all interested participants.

Clearly, however, the highlight of the event was the appearance of a smiling “Poppy”.  Though confined to a wheelchair and dealing with the effects on her on-going chemotherapy treatments, she was a powerful inspiration to all in attendance. Just the day before the event, she had posted a message on her blog providing readers with helpful information regarding the time and location of the walk.  Sadly, two weeks later, she passed away.

According to Kaisha Thomas, several oral cancer survivors attended the event.  “They were all women, they were all non-smokers, and they all developed oral cancer at a young age,” she said.  “I used to think of oral cancer as a disease that just affected older men who smoked or chewed tobacco, but that’s clearly not the case any more.”  As Kaisha points out, the fastest-growing cause of oral cancer today is the sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus, or HPV.  As a result, a growing percentage of oral cancer’s victims are like Rachel Kahan:  young females who do not use tobacco.

It is a fitting and touching testament to “Poppy” that this year’s event raised over $14,000, more than had been raised in the prior three events combined.  The key to reducing the number of young women who it the future are afflicted with the disease that took Rachel Kahan’s life is increasing the public’s awareness of the need for regular oral cancer screenings.  Fortunately, thanks to the extraordinary passion and efforts of people like Kaisha Thomas, impressive progressive is being achieved toward the goal of “making oral cancer history”--one footstep at a time.

A Big Band Serenades Another Big Success in Chattanooga

No one can say that Jeanna Rachelson doesn’t know how to throw a party.  Or a great fundraiser.

For the third straight year, the stage 4 oral cancer survivor organized a hugely successful Chattanooga Oral Cancer Awareness Walk.  This year’s walk, which took place on April 28, combined elements that have proved successful in the past with elements that gave the event a new, fresh feeling.

As was the case for the past two years, the event was emceed by former Mrs. Tennessee International Cydney Miller, a staunch oral cancer awareness advocate.  emceed for the 3rd year in a row. And, as in 2011, the event was held at the First Tennessee Pavillion, and the 2-mile walk took participants past the world famous “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”  And once again, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield declared the day of the walk “Oral Cancer Awareness Day.”

Once again, Jeanna was able to procure many great silent auction and raffle items, include a dinner for eight at Bonefish Grill.  And once again, the single largest donation was made by Jeanna’s favorite customer at Siskin Steel, where she just celebrated 15 years of employment.

Perhaps the biggest change from the first two walks was the appearance of Chattanooga’s most popular big band, Sweet Georgia Sound. The band’s leader, Mike Laroche, is an oral cancer survivor.  Jeanna’s pre-walk advertising told participants to bring their running shoes and their dancing shoes, and in fact many did exactly that.

Another special aspect of this year’s walk was the fact that it was dedicated to the late Chip Lewis, an oral cancer victim.  The walk, which was attended by his family, was kicked off with a massive release of helium-filled blue balloons to honor Chip and his favorite color.

Dr. Peter Hunt, and ENT surgeon who has operated on many oral cancer patients, spoke to the crowd about early detection of the disease.  Following that, oral cancer screenings were provided by Dr. Jill Hodges and three husband-and-wife dentist teams: Dr. Marie Farrar and Dr. Mitch Baldree; Dr. Mandy and Dr. Bob Shearer; and Dr. Angela and Dr. Riley Lunn.

The event was also attended by the Oral Cancer Foundation’s New Jersey-based Event Coordinator Susan Lauria and her husband Harry.   “I was thrilled to be able to see Susan again and to meet her husband,” said Jeanna.  “Without her help, we would never have achieved the things we have over the past three years.”

And without Jeanna’s help, the cause of oral cancer awareness would never have advanced as far as in has among the residents of Chattanooga.  Moreover, the Oral Cancer Foundation would not have received a contribution of over $24,000, bringing Jeanna’s three-year fundraising total to over $62,000.

Impressively, her accomplishments are being recognized not just locally, but on a national level.  Jeanna recently was named a winner of the prestigious Jefferson Award, which honors exceptional community and public volunteers across the country.  She’ll receive the award at a June ceremony in Washington, DC, accompanied by the person who nominated her for the award:  her husband Robert.

Jeanna Rachelson is a very special person.  Her husband gets that.  So do the people at the Jefferson Awards.  And so does the Oral Cancer Foundation.

It Ain’t Braggin’ If You Can Do It!

Minutes after raising over $17,000 for the Oral Cancer Foundation during Nashville’s “Boot Scootin’ for Oral Cancer Screening III” walk one year ago, lead event organizer Nicki Raines predicted that the 2012 event would raise more than $20,000.  Well, the results are in, and—sure enough—the April 14 “Boot Scootin’ for Oral Cancer Screening IV” walk raised $21,703.

As in 2011, Nicki and her two co-organizers (and fellow hygienists)—Ellen Crosby and Holly Hill—employed their highly creative “flocking” tactic. In the weeks leading up to the walk, they planted flocks of plastic flamingos in front of dozens of Nashville-area dental practices after the practices had closed.  As they came to work the next morning, the unsuspecting dental staff, as well as their patients, were welcomed by numerous flamingos, a sign saying “You’ve been flocked!” and supplies of pamphlets, buttons and other Oral Cancer Foundation materials promoting the need for regular oral cancer screenings.  Practices were charged a “removal fee” of $25 for removing the flamingos, and a “removal and relocation fee” for transplanting them in front of another dental practice of their choice. Most of these practices ended up not only happily paying the “removal and relocation fee,” but supporting the walk by either attending the event, donating to it, or both.

In fact, this year’s walk witnessed such great involvement from Nashville-area dental practices and other teams that Nicki, Ellen and Holly decided to give out some special awards.  In recognition of bringing the most team members (25), Embassy Dental awarded gold trophy boots.  Pamela Dedman, VP of Operations for this group dental practice, was instrumental in coordinating this impressive turnout.  Members of Team Veaz, named for oral cancer survivor—and walker John Garrett Veazey, Jr., were awarded “specially decorated and colorfully tacky” cowboy hats for raising over $5,000. And members of Team Whitefield were awarded stuffed flamingos for their matching “Flocking for Oral Cancer Awareness” t-shirts that won them the award for the best team spirit.

All in all, a remarkable 324 people participated in the event, either by walking, donating online, or writing sponsorship checks.   Of this total, 123 people participated in the 5K walk, and 40 of them received oral cancer exams conducted by Embassy Dental and members of the Nashville Area Dental Hygienists Society (NADHS) using the VELscope oral cancer screening device.  Suspicious lesions were detected for four of these people, who were referred to specialists for follow-up exams.

Speaking to the attendees prior to the walk were Christine Brader, a highly inspirational three-time oral cancer survivor, and Mr. Veazey.  Auction and raffle items included prints of local artist Kelly O’Neil’s painting “Mine for a Moment,” which she created in honor of a close friend who recently died of oral cancer.

In addition, Nashville legend Charlie Daniels donated a gold fiddle that went for over $350.

As always, the event’s dynamic organizers arranged for live entertainment, including Gary Slayton and Janelle Dodson.  Janelle is a hygienist and NADHS officer who recently moved to Nashville to become a part of the local music scene.  

One additional key to the success of this year’s walk was the fundraising prowess of Robin Rhowling, another hygienist who recently moved to the Nashville area.  With Robin’s skills being added to the energy and creativity of Nicki Raines, Ellen Crosby and Holly Hill, it would appear that “Boot Scootin’ for Oral Cancer Screening V” is a shoe-in for Nashville’s most successful walk yet!

Philly’s Fourth Fantastic Fundraiser

The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine goes to great lengths to make a large variety of activities available to its students, and many of those activities are of a charitable nature.  One year ago, then first-year dental student Ross Uhrich volunteered to help with the school’s third annual Philly Oral Cancer Walk without giving it a lot of thought.  As a result of that experience, he developed an appreciation for just how little he and most of his peers understood about the threat posed by oral cancer.  He decided he would get even more involved in the cause of promoting oral cancer awareness, and in fact was named the co-chair of the school’s 4th annual walk.

That event took place on Sunday, April 29 and drew 243 participants.  Of these, 169 participated in the walk, while 79 participated in a 5K run.  Adding a run was the idea of Ross, a high school cross country runner.  Both the walk and run started at the school’s campus but took two slightly different routes toward Philadelphia’s Center City and back.

Following the walk/run, participants were given the opportunity to receive oral cancer screenings given by dental school faculty and students from the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University.  They also heard two outstanding speakers.  The first was Dr. Thomas Sollecito, Chairman of the Department of Oral Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine.  He was followed by keynote speaker Christine Brader, a three-time oral cancer survivor who gave what Ross described as a “very heartfelt and very well-received speech.”

Participants were offered a variety of refreshments, including a smoothie bar and other “oral cancer-friendly” foods.  Oral cancer screening device manufacturer DentalEZ had a booth.  The top finishers in the 5K race were given gift cards to local running stores and restaurants, as were the top fundraisers.

By the time Ross and his fellow co-chair, 3rd-year student Prince Dhillon, tallied their revenues and paid the event’s expenses, they had “philled” the Oral Cancer Foundation’s coffers with approximately $9,000. 

San Antonio Rose…to the Occasion!

San Antonio is known for many things, including the legendary Alamo, the beautiful Riverwalk, the NBA’s Spurs, and the Patsy Cline song, “San Antonio Rose.”  And thanks to Elizabeth Sikon, it’s also developing a reputation for organizing some of the most successful oral cancer walks in the country.

Elizabeth, a former oncology nurse with three young daughters, organized her first oral cancer walk one year ago, barely 18 months after being diagnosed with oral cancer and undergoing extensive treatment including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.  Despite a difficult recovery and hectic schedule, Elizabeth was able to raise almost $20,000, the most any Oral Cancer Foundation walk has ever generated in its first year.

While others were impressed with these results, Elizabeth immediately resolved that her 2012 results would blow them away.  She set the date of April 14 almost one year in advance, and she set an audacious fundraising goal: $35,000.

Elizabeth clearly knew what she was doing, because by the afternoon of Saturday, April 14, 2012, she and her team had raised a whopping $35,400 for the Oral Cancer Foundation.  This is believed to be the second-largest amount of money ever generated by an oral cancer walk.

The walk was again held at San Antonio’s O.P. Schnabel Park.  It attracted just over 300 registrants, many of whom brought their children along to enjoy the face-painting and temporary tattoo booths, not to mention the Smiley Sammy mascot.

Prior to the walk, the participants had fun loosening up to a Zumba dance exercise routine.  Following the walk, in between being entertained by the music of DJ Adrian,  they were treated to two outstanding speakers.  The first was Dr. Michaell A. Huber, professor at the Dental School of the UT Health Science Center, who discussed the importance of early detection of oral cancer from the perspective of a dental professional.  (A few weeks earlier, Dr. Huber asked Elizabeth to speak to his class of over 100 dental students to help kick off their study of oral cancer.) The second speaker was Eric Statler, a Stage IV oral cancer survivor who moved the crowd by providing his perspective on what it is like to be debilitated and disfigured by this disease.

When asked how they were able to almost double last year’s stellar results, she cited the exceptional “team spirit.”  A big part of this was due to special software utilized by the Oral Cancer Foundation that makes it easy and fun to track a walk’s fundraising progress, as well as to solicit donations online. In addition, a special website (, created and donated by Elizabeth’s neighbor, and a special Facebook page (, regularly updated by Elizabeth, made it easy for volunteers to keep track of developments over the months leading up to the walk.

Interestingly, the “MOCHA” moniker was created by Elizabeth.  A religious person who relied on her faith to help her through her intensive treatments, Elizabeth simply took the Oral Cancer Foundation’s theme “Making Oral Cancer History” and added an “Amen” at the end, thereby creating the “MOCHA” acronym.

Another big reason for the event’s success was a very active and generous group of sponsors.  Platinum sponsors included the Dental School of the UT Health Science Center, GlaxoSmithKline, Spahn Law Firm and the Oral Cancer Foundation.  Gold sponsors included the Department of Pathology of the UT Health Science Center, the Texas Academy of General Dentistry (San Antonio chapter), Pepsico, Briggs Equipment, the Start Center for Cancer Care, Prolyphic Productions, Cyber F/X Design and DJ Adrian.  Several other companies, organizations and dental practices were Silver, Bronze or Copper sponsors as well.

Never one to rest on her laurels, Elizabeth had already selected a larger venue for the 2013 walk, as the crowd she is determined to attract next year would be too big for the venue used the past two years.  She is planning to form a special committee dedicated to generating even more support from corporate sponsors.  She has also enlisted the services of an oral cancer survivor who has professional fundraising experience.  As if that weren’t enough, she is also planning to start a local support group for oral cancer patients and survivors.  The group will meet on a monthly basis, and Elizabeth is counting on recruiting many of its members to help spread the word about the 2013 walk.

The song “San Antonio Rose” begins, “Deep within my heart lies a melody, a song of old San Antone.”  Deep within Elizabeth Sikon’s heart lies a passion to help make oral cancer history.  And after only two years, she is making unprecedented progress toward that noble goal.

Learning Outside of Class

Cathy Draper is an adjunct faculty member in the dental hygiene program of Foothill College, as well as the student advisor for the school’s American Dental Hygiene Association chapter. Concerned about more than just her students’ academic development, Cathy decided she should find a good way for her students to give back to their Los Altos Hills, California community.  When she heard oral cancer survivor Eva Grayzel speak to her students last year, she found her cause: increasing awareness of the need for earlier detection of oral cancer. And when she did some research about the disease at the Oral Cancer Foundation’s website, she found her vehicle: she would organize an oral cancer walk.

And that is exactly what she did.  On Saturday, April 14, just under 100 people gathered for a 5K walk around the Foothill College track.  One of those walkers was Judy Miner, the college’s president, who set a very visible example for both her student body and her faculty.

What makes this turnout particularly impressive is the fact that Foothill College—a 2-year community college—is a commuter school with no on-campus residents.  This meant that students participating in the walk needed to drive from their homes to the campus, which is something they don’t normally do on a weekend.  What’s more, there are only 48 students in the school’s hygiene program: 24 first-year students and 24 second-year students. 

While the numbers might not have been in Cathy’s favor, the passion of her students certainly was.  Most of the administrative work required to organize the walk was handled by first-year students,

Walkers were given a raffle ticket for each lap around the track.  Raffle prizes included items like electric toothbrushes and gift cards to local establishments.  The mother of one student really got into the act, providing massages to anyone willing to make a donation.  Other donations were made prior to the event by several local dentists, one of whom also participated in the walk.

When all was said and done, over $5,000 was raised for the Oral Cancer Foundation.

As Cathy said, “This was a great way to not only increase awareness of oral cancer, but to have our students engage in a cause that is outside of themselves.”   And Cathy plans to make the walk an annual event.  “We learned a lot this time around,” she said, “and next year’s second-year students will all have the benefit of having gone through the exercise this year.” 

One thing Cathy is already planning to do differently next year is to have the local dental society provide oral cancer screenings.  And see has already secured the commitment of the local newspaper, which did a story following the event this year, to do a pre-event story next year in order to attract even more walkers and donations.

Clearly, Cathy Draper is helping her students to learn not only about dental hygiene, but about how to give back.  It’s hard to imagine a more well-rounded college education than that. that Kim and Dr. Pelletier are committed to organizing another walk/run next year?  “Next year?” asked Kim with a tone of mock indignation. “Every year!”

Awareness of oral cancer might be surprisingly low in South Carolina’s state capitol, but if Dr. Mark Pelletier, Kim Young and other staff members at Premier Aesthetic Dentistry have their way, the number of residents unaware of this disease will soon be headed south.

Literally and figuratively, this group wasn’t going to let a thunderstorm rain on its parade.  And they also weren’t about to let the fact that they’re from a small town keep them from raising funds that you’d expect from a big city.

A Small Town That Gets Big Results

Rossville, Indiana may have only about 1,300 residents, but four of them are very special people.  And all four work at Rossville Family Dentistry:  Dr. Alice Sue Green, her daughter Dr. Jennifer Green-Springer, hygienist Shana Frey, and dental assistant Kelly Hodson.

For the third straight year, these four women organized the Indiana Oral Cancer Awareness Walk. And despite thunderstorms that resulted in attendance that was only about one-third of the 90 or so people who attended the first two walks, these four women weren’t about to allow anything to rain on their parade.  Remarkably, the event was still able to generate a best-ever fundraising total of over $5,000.  It is believed that no oral cancer walk in the country has ever generated close to that amount on a per capita basis.

Two event participants were able to raise funds online using special software made available by the Oral Cancer Foundation.  Four area dental practices also formed fundraising teams that were able to raise significant funds offline.

The event had its genesis almost four years ago when Kelly and Shana were talking about all of the fundraising events being organized for breast cancer.  They decided that since they were in the dental profession, they should organize a fundraiser for oral cancer, particularly since they were aware that the disease is one of the few types of cancer that is claiming more victims than ever before.  They approach Dr. Green and Dr. Green-Springer and immediately secured their support.

For the 2012 event, which took place on Saturday, April 28, Kelly assumed most of the organizational responsibilities, but the entire staff at Rossville Family Dentistry pitched in to support her. Additional help was provided by Dr. Green-Springer’s husband, who designed a website for the event.

The 30 attendees all stayed dry inside the dental practice.  There they enjoyed refreshments, participated in a raffle, and heard a speech by Dr. Michael Bagnoli, an oral surgeon to whom Rossville Family Dentistry refers its patients exhibiting any suspicious oral lesions.  Entertainment was also provided for the children in attendance. The rains then let up long enough for everyone to get in about a 1.5 mile walk.

Literally and figuratively, this group wasn’t going to let a thunderstorm rain on its parade.  And they also weren’t about to let the fact that they’re from a small town keep them from raising funds that you’d expect from a big city.

One State, Two Schools, Three Walks…and Counting

The 3rd Arizona Oral Cancer Walk was held on Saturday, April 21.  The walk was the brainchild of Terrence Yu, DDS, a dentist at the Phoenix Rehabilitation Hospital, who thought it would be a good opportunity for collaboration between the students and faculty from Arizona’s two dental schools, the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health and Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine-Arizona.

The key organizer of the 2012 walk was Mai-Ly Duong, a 4th-year student at the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health.  Mai-Ly had organized the Arizona Hepatitis Walk in 2004, and she put her prior experience to good use.  Mai-Ly somehow found time to organize the event despite the fact that she had her dental licensing exam less than three weeks after the walk.

When asked why she went to the trouble to involve herself in the walk when she was so busy preparing for her exam and graduation, she said, “I think it’s important to help make people aware that oral cancer often strikes people with no obvious risk factors for the disease.”  As an example, she said, at the walk she met a 19-year-old woman who was recently diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma even though she doesn’t use tobacco or drink alcohol and has no history of cancer in her family.

Over 170 people attended the event at Scottsdale’s El Dorado Park.  Guest speakers included Kevin James, an oral cancer survivor who was diagnosed with the disease 18 years ago, and Dr. Dale Davis, a dentist whose mother and son are both oral cancer survivors.

Sponsors included the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation, the Arizona Academy of General Dentistry, GlaxoSmithKline, Patterson Dental, Scottsdale Healthcare and the Oral Cancer Foundation.  Thanks to the generosity of these sponsors, the 170 participants and their supporters—not to mention the organizational skills of Mai-Ly Duong—a total of nearly $5,000 was donated to the Oral Cancer Foundation.

An Oral Cancer Walk in the Heart of Tobacco Country

Like many dental professionals, Dr. Mark Pelletier and his staff at Premier Aesthetic Dentistry outside of Columbia, South Carolina had read numerous articles over the past several years discussing the surprising growth in the number of oral cancer cases. To enhance their ability to detect oral cancer and precancer, they began offering oral cancer screenings using ViziLIte® Plus technology several years ago.  Recently, to make the screenings more comfortable and economical, they invested in a state-of-the-art VELscope® oral cancer screening device, which allows them to charge their patients less and does not involve a distasteful oral rinse. 

While their regular patients are now aware of the threat posed by oral cancer, Dr. Pelletier and his associates were continually dismayed at how little most new patients knew about this disease.  “This was particularly alarming when you consider how many people in this part of the world smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco,” said Kim Young, one of the practice’s hygienists.  “So we decided we needed to do something to raise awareness about oral cancer.  We did our homework, and we saw on the Oral Cancer Foundation website that putting on a walk seemed to be a good way to raise awareness.  So that’s what we did.”

The main person responsible for putting on the 1st Annual Columbia Oral Cancer Walk was Kim.  “We wanted to have our walk in April to tie in with Oral Cancer Awareness Month, which didn’t leave us a lot of planning time,” she said, “but we think we did pretty well for our first event.”  To drum up interest in the event, Kim sent out news releases to the local media, and two days before the event was interviewed on the local Fox affiliate’s “Good Day, Columbia” television show.

The 5K walk/run took place on April 28 at Saluda Shoals, a large park in Columbia.  The course took the walkers and runners along a scenic trail that runs along the Lower Saluda River.  Following the walk/run, all but two of the participants received a free oral cancer screening, and the other two were invited to get their screening at Dr. Pelletier’s practice. In fact, Dr. Pelletier plans to offer free screenings to the public on two separate occasions later in the year.

The entire event had only two sponsors:  Premier Aesthetic Dentistry and the Oral Cancer Foundation.  “We couldn’t have pulled this off without the help of Susan Lauria and Kaitlin Caruso of the Oral Cancer Foundation,” said Kim.  “Now that we have the first walk’s experience under our belts, we’ll be able to get other local dental practices and businesses to help sponsor future events.”  Does that mean that Kim and Dr. Pelletier are committed to organizing another walk/run next year?  “Next year?” asked Kim with a tone of mock indignation. “Every year!”

Awareness of oral cancer might be surprisingly low in South Carolina’s state capitol, but if Dr. Mark Pelletier, Kim Young and other staff members at Premier Aesthetic Dentistry have their way, the number of residents unaware of this disease will soon be headed south.

Literally and figuratively, this group wasn’t going to let a thunderstorm rain on its parade.  And they also weren’t about to let the fact that they’re from a small town keep them from raising funds that you’d expect from a big city.

High School Project Earns a Perfect Score in More Ways Than One

Like other seniors at Fredericksburg Academy in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Ryan Hudson needed to select a project that dealt with something about which he knew very little and that would in some way help him better himself.  When his friend’s father began undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for oral cancer in July 2011, he decided that his project would focus on increasing awareness of this disease.

“I saw how hard this experience had hit my friend’s family,” Ryan said, “and so I decided that helping to create awareness about oral cancer could be a good way to make a positive impact on my community.”

Working with materials provided by the Oral Cancer Foundation and advice offered by Susan Lauria, the Foundation’s Event Coordinator, Ryan held Fredericksburg’s First Annual Oral Cancer Walk on April 21.  A total of 28 people met on the Academy grounds, where Ryan had t-shirts, wrist bands, and brochures waiting.  He had also arranged to have free oral cancer screenings conducted by a hygienist from Culpeper Dental Associates in nearby Culpeper.  After a brief talk from Ryan, the participants embarked on a 3-mile walk that was so much fun that everyone decided to take a second lap.  And when they returned, they enjoyed refreshments that Ryan had paid for out of his own pocket.

Between the pledges the walkers brought in and donations made by local dental practices, the event raised approximately $2,800 for the Oral Cancer Foundation.  Next year, Ryan plans to hold his second annual walk, even though he’ll be a freshman at Hampton Sydney College two-and-a-half hours away.

“I learned a lot about planning and organizing as a result of this experience, and I know I can do so much better next year,” said Ryan.  But one aspect of his first year results cannot be improved upon:  He received a perfect score of 100 on his senior project.

Johnny’s Angels

When Johnny Hayes passed away following a three-year bout with oral cancer on November 18, 2011, he left behind his wife Viola and his grown daughters Pamela, Darlene and Tiffany. These four most important women in his life decided that they wanted to do something to honor Johnny, and even though he is the one now residing in heaven, they dubbed themselves “Johnny’s Angels.”

Pamela, the eldest daughter, wanted to learn more about the disease that had claimed her father’s life, and her curiosity soon took her to the Oral Cancer Foundation’s website.  There she learned, among other things, that many people across the country were organizing oral cancer walks to commemorate Oral Cancer Awareness Month in April.  She discussed this with the other Angels, and even though that was only a few months away, they decided that they would organize a walk in their hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut on April 21.

Other members of the Hayes family, including Johnny’s grandchildren, pitched in to help with the planning.  A local company called The Printing Press donated flyers to help promote the event, as well as a bookmark with Johnny’s photograph and personalized certificates to be given to each participant in the event.

The 2-mile walk took place in the same park where Johnny used to walk every day.  Despite only a few months of planning, a total of 67 people attended the event and raised over $1,000 for the Oral Cancer Foundation.

“We are definitely doing this again next year,” said Pamela, “and with much more time to plan, we know we’ll be able to attract a lot more people and raise a lot more money for the Foundation.”  One thing Pamela and her cohorts are committed to doing at next year’s event is offering free oral cancer screenings to all attendees.

“My father was a great husband, father and grandfather, and he always had a big smile on his face,” said Pamela.  It seems likely that on April 21, 2012, his smile was even bigger than usual.

“Lisa’s Voice” Rings Clear in Montana

Columbia Falls, Montana, is a picturesque, tight-knit town at the base of Glacier National Park.  With a population of roughly 2,500, any residents with a larger-than-life personality are seemingly know by everyone in town.  Lisa Petersen was one of those larger-than-life personalities.

Sadly, Lisa died in September, two years after being diagnosed with oral cancer.  Her treatment had included several surgeries, one of which removed her tongue and, with it, her voice.  But while her treatment was ultimately unable to save Lisa, the memories that Lisa’s friends have of her will keep her voice alive indefinitely.  One of those friends is Janis Johnson, who decided that something had to be done to honor Lisa’s memory.  “Lisa was one of a kind,” said Janis.  “She was very headstrong and opinionated, but she’d do anything for you.  She was a car racing fan and loved to hunt, but she also loved animals, especially her one-eyed cat and three-legged.  She was a real piece of work and just a joy to be around.” 

Prior to developing cancer, Lisa worked in mental healthcare.  Several years ago she moved from Columbia Falls to Missoula, but she returned home to be near her parents after her only sibling died in a car accident.  Shortly after moving pack, she was diagnosed with oral cancer.

When Janis decided to honor Lisa’s memory, she quickly decided two things.  First, she decided the event would not be a walk.  “It seems that almost every fundraiser you see is some sort of a walk,” said Janis.  “Lisa was a unique individual, so I wanted to do something different.  Also, you never know what kind of weather you’ll get around here in April, so I thought we should hold our event indoors.”  Second, she decided that the event would be called “Lisa’s Voice.”  As Janis said, “Lisa was never afraid to speak out, and you never knew what was going to come out of her mouth. But while cancer might have robbed her of her ability to speak, she still always found a way to be heard. It’s my hope that this event will keep her voice, and her memory, alive for many years to come.”

Based on the inaugural version of this event, held on April 21, it appears that Janis stands a good chance of getting her wish.  It was held at the Montana State Veterans Home, where Janis is employed helping residents with their dietary needs.  The superintendant of the Veterans Home is particularly sensitive to the cause of early detection of oral cancer, having recently lost an aunt to the disease and having another employee currently being treated for the disease.  In addition to providing the event’s venue, he also arranged to have the Veteran’s Home food service donate $1,000 worth of food, and to have local VFW members man the grills.

The centerpiece of the event was a booth staffed by members of the Flathead County Health Department. Janis had held four meetings with department administrators in what was ultimately a successful effort to convince them that the community needed to be educated about the threat posed by oral cancer, particularly that caused by the sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV).

The event was kicked off in dramatic fashion by having a local roller derby team skate through the Veterans Home.  The team also handled valet duties as attendees arrived in their vehicles.

Janis was also able to gain the cooperation of the local dental community, as three general practitioners and one oral surgeon agreed to give oral cancer screenings to almost 100 event attendees. In addition, several local businesses and a local artist donated items for raffle prizes and a silent auction.  One of the most popular prizes was Lisa’s hunting rifle.

Janis lined up an impressive list of speakers for the event, including:

  • April Coen, one of Lisa’s closest friends.
  • Michelle Koller, whose 16-year-old daughter Taylor Peterson is currently being treated for oral cancer in Seattle.
  • Julianne Hinchey, a local attorney and oral cancer patient who spoke on how early detection saved her life.
  • Michele Robison, a brain cancer survivor who emceed the event.

In addition, representatives of the Montana Tobacco Quit Program were there to answer questions about the connection between oral cancer and tobacco usage.

Remarkably, almost 500 people between the ages of 5 and 90 attended the event, thanks in large part to Janis’ efforts to generate as much pre-event publicity as possible.  She was able to secure free advertising support from the Fox TV station in nearby Missoula and the Daily Interlake newspaper. She also got radio stations KOFI and KGEZ to air interviews with her leading up to the event, and she spoke to about 70 members of the local Rotary Club to drum up additional interest. 

The event raised a total of about $8,000 for the Oral Cancer Foundation, which is nothing short of remarkable given the small population base in Flathead County.  Still, less than three weeks after the inaugural “Lisa’s Voice,” Janis is already well on her way to ensuring that next year’s results will be even more successful. How?  By having two events two weeks apart—one in Missoula, where Lisa once lived, and the other in Kalispell.  Both cities offer much larger population bases than Columbia Falls.  In Missoula, Janis will organize the event in conjunction with the local Fox TV station.  In both cities, she already has lined up several dental practices that have agreed to offer free screenings, as well as three oral cancer patients from the Flathead Valley who want to share their stories.  She has also already arranged for several raffle and auction prizes, including a mammogram, a radiology reading and a surgery to be donated by a local hospital, and a 12-piece set of antique dishes donated by a local woman.  And, last but not least, she has persuaded the governor of Montana to attend the event.

Lisa Petersen was certainly a larger-than-life character, but it clear that Janis Johnson is a very special person in her own right.  Lisa might have lost her battle with cancer, but thanks to the efforts and determination of friends like Janis, her voice will be heard forever.



March 14, 2009

NADHS (Nashville Area District Hygiene Society)

Registration time: 8:30 am
Walk begins at 9:30 am
Location: Centennial Park
Cost: $20 - Walkers with 10 sponsors get free registration for themselves.
Contact: Nicki Raines
Event occurs, Rain or Shine

Proceeds from this event benefit The Oral Cancer Foundation

Register or Sponsor a walker today


David Nasto Memorial Walk for Oral Cancer Awareness

A Sister Honors Her Brother by Supporting Oral Cancer Foundation

First Annual Memorial Walk Raises Over $10,000 to Promote Early Detection

David Nasto was the kind of person many of us wish we could be.  He was a surfer.  A snowboarder.  A kayaker.  A bicycler.  An artist.  A world traveler.  A free spirit.  Not content to simply be a devoted fan of the Grateful Dead, he also designed their album covers.  Simply put, David Nasto loved life, and he lived it on his own terms.

David Nasto was also his sister Susan’s hero.  So when David developed oral cancer in 2005, Susan decided to learn as much about the disease as she could.  And when David passed away the following year, she decided to honor her brother do by doing what she could to help prevent others from suffering the way he suffered.

“When David was diagnosed with oral cancer, I was shocked,” said Susan.  “He was so athletic, so healthy, and he had never smoked a cigarette in his life.  I didn’t think oral cancer struck people like him.”  Susan tried to learn as much as she could about the disease, spending much of her free time doing online research.  During that process she discovered the website of the Oral Cancer Foundation.  “I learned a lot about oral cancer, but the most important thing I learned is the importance of early detection.  So when David died, I wanted to find a way to raise money to help increase awareness of the need for everyone to get checked for oral cancer on a regular basis.”

After much study and contemplation, Susan decided that she would organize the David Nasto Memorial Walk for Oral Cancer, and donate all of the funds raised to the Oral Cancer Foundation.  The first annual walk took place on September 27, 2008 just outside Andover, New Jersey, where David and Susan were raised. Susan started organizing the event in March, relying heavily on advice provided by Oral Cancer Foundation founder Brian Hill.  “There’s no way I could have done this without Brian,” said Susan.  “I learned so much from him about oral cancer, and about how to orchestrate an event like this.  He guided me through every step of the way.”

And there were certainly a lot of steps involved.  The event kicked off with a 9:00 am registration, where 85 registrants were given special t-shirts.  For the next two hours, free oral cancer exams were conducted by three dentists.  Then it was time for the walk, a two-mile stroll through scenic countryside in an area known as Perona Farms.  Following the walk, lunch was served, including baked ziti, fruit, and hamburgers and hot dogs grilled by Susan’s husband, Harry Lauria.  After lunch, an inspirational talk was given by Eva Grayzel, a 10-year oral cancer survivor, and five other oral cancer survivors in attendance were also introduced.  The event concluded with a raffle of various gift cards, and an iPod was awarded to the person who recruited the most sponsors.  All told, over $10,000 was raised, quite a feat for a first-time event.

Susan, who helps people for a living through her “On the Move” errand service, is quick to acknowledge the many people who helped her make this event such a success.  Local stores donated all of the food as well as the raffled gift cards.  CBS Outdoor donated a billboard that promoted the event for three months.  Johnson & Johnson, where Susan’s aunt is employed, donated $2,500 in cash plus all of the t-shirts.  And other family members also got into the act.  Susan’s 91-year-old grandmother, who lives at the New Jersey shore where David Nasto once was a lifeguard, raised over $700 from the beach community through a letter-writing campaign.  Susan’s mother made flyers for the event, and Susan’s sister who is 4 ½ months pregnant, flew in from Texas to work the registration desk.  And Susan’s husband Harry and 15-year-old son Kevin provided much moral support throughout the entire planning process. 

Susan is already thinking about her second annual walk, and she’s set a goal of raising twice as much money as the inaugural event raised.  Fortunately, she’s already had several people volunteer to help her attain that goal.  And speaking of volunteering, Susan has volunteered to help the Oral Cancer Foundation counsel other people who are organizing walks and other fund-raising events.

David Nasto was clearly an inspiration to his sister.  And Susan Lauria is proving to be just as big of an inspiration to others, particularly to those who care deeply about reducing the incidence and impact of oral cancer. Brian Hill from OCF stated that “Susan’s passion was evident from the onset. It was clearly a labor of love, but beyond that, it was the realization that she personally could be part of positive change in the world while memorializing her brother. It think that her example, her ability to turn a tragedy into a positive that will impact others around her, raise awareness about a disease that we hear far too little about, and help fund outreach efforts that are remote from her local community through the funds donated to OCF, show her to be the kind of altruistic person person that we can all look up to. When our focus moves from the self to others, mountains can be moved. It was a privilege to be associated with her both personally and through the foundation in this effort. She is a remarkable lady.

Davis Nasto Oral Cancer Walk

The first year of an annual event to memorialize the life of David Nasto, lost to oral cancer in 2006, which will raise awareness of the disease, and help fund initiatives via OCF to reduce the burdens of this disease in the US. Local dentists will provide free oral cancer screenings at the registration site of the walk. The first 100 walkers will receive a free T-shirt.

We are proud to have

Johnson & Johnson

as a major sponsor of this event .

Date: September 27, 2008

Location: Perona Farms, Route 517 - Andover Township, Sussex County, NJ

Time: Registration at 9AM, walk begins at 11AM. Rain or Shine.

Registration: $20.00 per walker.


Walkers with paid sponsors participate for free. Registrations may be prepaid on the Oral Cancer Foundation's web site

Additional information regarding registration or sponsorships please contact: Susan Lauria email: Phone number  856-642-0483

How do I Register or Sponsor a Walker?

A function of the event is raising money for the Oral Cancer Foundation - a core component of what the walk wishes to accomplish. With this in mind, each walker/participant is encouraged to ask friends, family, coworkers, etc. to sponsor them in this event. Minimum sponsorships are $20.00. Walkers will then bring these sponsor's checks (made out to OCF) or store receipts to the walk, and an award will be given to the walker with the most sponsors signed up.

About David Nasto

Surfer, snowboarder, cyclist, artist, outdoorsman, photographer, water skier, loving son, beloved brother, grandson, uncle and friend. These are just a few ways to describe David. He was a man who loved life to the fullest Always on some kind of adventure, he was off surfing in Costa Rica, or Hawaii, kayaking or canoeing, or snowboarding in Vermont. He approached everything passionately with his heart and soul. But most of all he was a kind and loving gentle man, with a heart of gold. All that changed in an instant in 2005 with the diagnosis of stage 4 tongue cancer. He fought a battle through chemotherapy, radiation and finally clinical trials. Even after losing his ability to eat or speak, dependent on a feeding tube, he never gave up. His lost his battle at age 47. David did not seek medical help until too late, and the purpose of this walk event is to raise awareness in people to get screened regularly and to seek medical/dental advice should something abnormal persist in your mouth for more than a couple of weeks. Screenings and an informed public will save lives. But you must be aware of the possibilities and engaged in an annual screening process. The family hopes that David’s battle and life can become a message that will help others avoid this terrible disease, or at worst find it at early curable stages.

2nd Annual “Walk the Rock” For Oral Cancer Awareness

Walk The Rock Oral Cancer Benefit

Date: Sunday, September 21st 2008
Nelson Park—Plymouth, MA

Registration Begins at 9AM
Walk Begins at 11AM
(Approx. 2.5 miles)
Rain or Shine

Visit for more details
Or contact Laureen @ (508) 353-8238

Join us for our 2nd annual “Walk the Rock” Oral Cancer Walk. This silent killer is responsible for over 7,000 American deaths each year. If detected early, it can be treated with great success. All proceeds to benefit The Oral Cancer Foundation

  • Fun for the whole family! Face painting & fun family activities!
  • Free Oral Cancer and Blood Pressure Screenings
  • There will be a reception following the walk with food, raffle, and live band entertainment!
  • Each walker must have a minimum of $20 in sponsorships which will benefit The Oral Cancer Foundation.
  • Great prizes for the top three individuals who raise the most money!
  • There will also be a prize given to the person with the best “Jeannie” costume—think “I Dream Of”, to honor our friend Jeannie Priolo
  • First 300 walkers to pre-register before September 1st will receive a free “Walk the Rock” t-shirt.

Oral Cancer Foundation Honors Two Student Leaders

NYU Dental Students Show They Have a Lot to Teach About Giving Back

The Oral Cancer Foundation recently honored the two student co-chairs of Oral Cancer Walk 2008, an awareness-building and fund-raising event coordinated by the New York University Dental School’s chapter of SNDA (Student National Dental Association).  The two honorees are fourth-year student Marcus Johnson and third-year student Dmitry Baron. 

NYU College of Dentistry students Dmitry Baron (left) and Marcus Johnson.

Marcus and Dmitry both worked on the 2006 and 2007 events and, despite extremely busy schedules, enthusiastically embraced the challenge of running this year’s event. Oral Cancer Walk 2008 took place the morning of Saturday, April 19 in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park, drew over 900 walkers, and raised over $30,000 to support the cause of the early detection of oral cancer. Funds raised through the event sponsor the work of The Oral Cancer Foundation. The event also featured free oral cancer, blood pressure, and cholesterol screenings in conjunction with the Harlem Hospital, speeches from oral cancer survivors, and musical entertainment both before and after the walk. Dr. Jocelyn Jeffries, the chair of Oral Cancer Walk 2007, attended the event and lent her moral support to the new event leadership.

“For Marcus and Dmitry to find the time to coordinate such a significant event while tending to their dental school studies represents a tremendous sacrifice,” said Brian Hill, Founder and Executive Director of the Oral Cancer Foundation, which again was both one of the event’s sponsors, and benefactors.  “Their exceptional leadership, passion and altruism have generated not only badly-needed funding, but badly-needed awareness for our cause.” To present them with the foundation’s 2008 Award for Excellence in Public Service was a privilege.

While Marcus Johnson and Dmitry Baron share many extraordinary traits, they come from very different backgrounds and have very different career plans. Marcus, a Denver native, will begin a one-year residency in Brooklyn following his mid-May dental school graduation.  He then plans to attend the University of Michigan to pursue a Master’s degree in Dental Public Health Administration.  Not content to merely become a practicing dentist, he also hopes to teach in dental school and to be involved in community dental health. 

Dmitry and his identical twin brother Alek, who is also an NYU dental student who has been actively involved with all three Oral Cancer Walks, were born in the Ukraine and moved to New Jersey with their family as young children.  Following their graduation from dental school in 2009, Dmitry and Alek will each fulfill a 3-year Army obligation and then a 5-year Reserve commitment.

Both Marcus and Dmitry expressed their gratitude to Dr. Ross Kerr, NYU Associate Professor of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology & Medicine and faculty advisor to the SNDA, for his counsel and inspiration.  They also were emphatic that walk could not have succeeded without the hard work and talents of the other student-members of the Oral Cancer Committee or the cooperation of the NYU College of Dentistry’s administration.  And they acknowledged Philadelphia-area dentist, Dr. Jerold Wilck, who is also an oral cancer survivor, as the walk’s single-largest fund-raiser.

It is clear that Marcus and Dmitry are two very appreciative young men.  “I understand that I am fortunate to have received a great deal of support over the years from my family and so many others,” said Marcus, “and I want to give back.”  Said Dmitry, “I’ve been blessed in my life, and I felt a calling to do whatever I could to support this very special cause.”

Despite everything these busy students have going on in their own worlds, they are also able to look beyond their immediate environment.  Marcus is determined to help Harlem and similar communities embrace the cause of early detection, but he knows it won’t be easy.  “These communities’ health concerns have focused on intervention, and what we’re trying to do is to help them start focusing on prevention as well.”  In Dmitry’s case, his focus is on other dental schools.  “Our hope is that other schools will hear about our results and start similar programs in their communities,” said Dmitry.  “We are anxious to share our ideas and experiences with them, and to do anything else we can to help them create awareness of the need for earlier detection of oral cancer.”  Other schools can not only raise awareness in their own local communities, but through the fund raising aspect of raising money for the Oral cancer Foundation, they can have an impact in other distant communities via the foundation’s work, where disparities in health care exist.

While Marcus Johnson and Dmitry Baron will soon be two very special dentists, they are already—quite clearly—two very special young men.

Bob Dylan Tribute

Dylan Concert

Growing up in Long Island, N.Y., local guitarist/mandolinist Greg Schochet's earliest memories involve listening to his dad's Bob Dylan records.

Dylan turns 67 on May 24, and in honor of the folk legend's big day Schochet -- who has performed with such local favorites as Runaway Truck Ramp, the All Night Honky Tonk All Stars and Hit and Run Bluegrass, and currently plays with the Expedition Quartet and Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams -- is hosting An All-Star Tribute to Bob Dylan at the Gold Hill Inn on Wednesday.

"It's a musical tour of his career from start to the present," Schochet says.

It's the third such party Schochet has organized, including celebrations in 2005 and 2007. The event has brought together big-name local acts like Yonder Mountain String Band, Danny Shafer and Rose Hill Drive in the past. This year's party includes Spring Creek Bluegrass, KC Groves, Flatfoot and others, as well as Schochet's bands the Expedition Quartet and Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams.

"Bob Dylan's music means a lot to me musically and historically," Schochet says.

But the event means even more as its origin lies not in Dylan's music but in Schochet's Long Island roots. Growing up, Schochet's best friend, and fellow Dylan fan, was Dan Roth, and a few years ago Roth was diagnosed with oral cancer. He came to Colorado to visit Schochet and the two spent a day just jamming on Dylan tunes and discussed the possibility of turning that into a show.

"That idea just grew in my mind that it could be a big event," Schochet says.

The event is a benefit for the Oral Cancer Foundation, which raises awareness of the disease and provides support and advocacy for those with oral cancer. Schochet says the Gold Hill Inn has donated its space for the event, and all of the musicians have donated their time and won't be paid for their performances.

"Musicians are historically and locally putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to doing a benefit," he says.

Each band gets to pick three or four of its favorite Dylan songs to perform, the only rule being no repeats.

"Anything goes in terms of interpretation," Schochet says, be it rock, bluegrass or his Expedition Quartet's chamber-esque take on the 12-minute "Desolation Row."

This year's lineup will be arranged chronologically, so that the evening will cover everything from Dylan's self-titled 1962 debut up to his 2006 release, Modern Times. And, time permitting, it will also feature a Bob Dylan sound-alike competition.

"If you feel you need to enter, all you need to know is about one verse," Schochet says.

He is going to great lengths to ensure a fair decision.

"It's audience response, of course," Schochet says, then adds with a laugh, "We don't want any corrupt 'American Idol'-type judging going on."

The best news, though, is that Roth has since beaten cancer, and is currently back in Long Island raising his son.

Whom he named Dylan, of course.

New York Oral Cancer Awareness Walk and FREE Screening Event

Oral Cancer Walk 2008

Join us in raising awareness of oral cancer, a silent killer that takes the life of someone in the US every hour of every day. If detected in its earliest stages, oral cancer is highly survivable.Your participation in this walk event will help raise awareness in others, and your fees will benefit the Oral Cancer Foundation, a national non-profit charity that works to reduce the death rate from this disease.

Free oral cancer screenings will be available at the event. People may obtain a free screening even if they are not participants in the walk event itself. Please stop by for a screening, and bring your whole family.

The first 500 registered walkers will receive free event T-shirts with the Oral Cancer Walk logo on them. Great prizes will be given to the 3 walkers who raise the most money, with an additional prize from The Oral Cancer Foundation for the person who brings in the most individual sponsors!

All walkers must have at least one sponsor. Each walker must collect a minimum of $20 in sponsorship. Prizes will be given to the two to walkers who collect the largest number of sponsors measured by total dollar amount. Another prize will be given for the walker that brings in the greatest number of sponsors regardless of amount.

Free screenings available: Free oral cancer screenings will be provided by doctors from the NYU College of Dentistry at the event. Please bring your family and friends for this potentially life saving free check up!

Click here to Register Online Today at the OCF web store.

Watch a video of last year's walk:

Windows Media Click here for Windows Media

Quicktime Click here for Apple Quiktime

Click here to download a sponsor registration form (Coming Soon)

Colleen Zenk Pinter

At this years event, actress Colleen Zenk Pinter will be with us along with a team of others from the long running TV show, As The World Turns. Colleen is recently out of treatment for oral cancer, and has become an advocate for early detection of the disease in television Public Service Announcements, and in print interviews in popular magazines. The show is produced by Proctor and Gamble Productions and runs on the CBS network. Both organizations have been very supportive, seeing that the oral cancer story and early detection gain public attention.

SNDA Chapter at Howard University

Oral Cancer Walk for Awareness and FREE Screening Event

Join us in raising awareness of oral cancer, a killer that will effect over 34,000 Americans this year alone. When detected in its earliest stages, oral cancer is highly survivable. Participating in this walk event will help raise awareness in others, and your fees will benefit the Oral Cancer Foundation, a national non-profit charity that works to reduce the death rate from this disease.

Free oral cancer screenings will be available at the event. People may obtain a free screening even if they are not participants in the walk event itself. Please stop by for a screening, and bring your whole family. The screenings will be held at the Howard University Dental School from 10:30 AM until 3 PM on the day of the walk.

The first 100 registered walkers will receive free event T-shirts with the Oral Cancer Walk logo on them.

All walkers must have at least one sponsor. Each walker must collect a minimum of $20 in sponsorships.

You will receive a map of the walk route (approximately 4 miles) when you register.

Free screenings available: Free oral cancer screenings will be provided by doctors from the Howard University College of Dentistry. Please bring your family and friends for this potentially life saving free check up!

Click here to pre register for the walk event, or to sponsor a walker on the OCF web store.

1st Annual Laclede Oral Cancer Walk & Ride - Long Beach, Ca.

Long Beach Walk and Ride 2007

On September 29th, 2007 a Walk & Ride Healthcare Event will be held in Long Beach, California to benefit the Oral Cancer Foundation, put on by Laclede Inc., the makers of Biotene oral care products. Make a difference this year and give a gift of caring to your friends and family members by inviting them to join you in The First Annual Oral Cancer Walk & Ride. Raise public awareness - and get a FREE oral cancer screening while you are at the event. Early detection will save lives.

Free oral cancer screenings will be available to walkers, riders, and the public at the main registration area of the event.

Date: Saturday, September 29th, 2007 RAIN OR SHINE!

Check in: begins between 8:30am – 9am, Event starts at 9:30am. You will receive a map of the walk route (2 miles) or ride route (24 miles) when you check in.

Location: El Dorado East Regional Park
7550 E. Spring Street in Long Beach, California

All registration and payments must be completed by September 1st, 2007. Make all checks or money orders payable to: Oral Cancer Foundation / Tax ID #33-0969026

We reserve the right to cancel in extreme circumstances. In that event, there will be no refunds, your entry fee will be used as a donation to the Oral Cancer Foundation, a national 501(c)3 non profit charity.

If you are interested in participating, volunteering to help, or becoming a sponsor of the event, please contact the Oral Cancer Foundation or Laclede Inc.

NYU Conducts 2nd Annual - New York Walk For Awareness

Oral Cancer Walk NYU

Oral Cancer Walk 2007 Raises Funds, Awareness and Spirits

Inspirational Dental Students Show They’ve Learned About More Than Dentistry

On a recent Saturday morning in Harlem, the efforts of several high-energy, big-hearted dental students succeeded in raising both funding and awareness for oral cancer detection.  Coordinated primarily by the NYU Dental School’s chapter of SNDA (Student National Dental Association), Oral Cancer Walk 2007 involved over 500 walkers and raised $32,000 to support the cause of early detection of oral cancer.  The event also featured free oral cancer and blood pressure screenings, speeches from oral cancer survivors, and entertainment.

This was the second year for the event, which was the brainchild of 2006 NYU Dental School students.  They started the event when they recognized that oral cancer is particularly prevalent among African-American males, and they determined that Harlem, which is an area of the country where African Americans are disproportionately affected by oral cancer would be the ideal location to call attention to this situation. Last year’s inaugural event involved just under 300 walkers and raised $25,000.  

Oral Cancer Walk 2007 was made possible through the collaboration of several talented and dedicated individuals, including 15 NYU Dental School students and Dr. Ross Kerr.  Chair of the event was fourth-year student Jocelyn Jeffries, a soon-to-be resident in pediatric dentistry.  Jocelyn, who is also president of NYU’s Pediatrics Club, assisted with Oral Cancer Walk 2006, and despite the many demands of her studies as well as the planning for her upcoming June wedding, Jocelyn was more than happy to spearhead the 2007 event.  “I’ve always been an advocate for outreach,” said Jocelyn, who first became exposed to cancer treatment while selling oncology-related products for a pharmaceutical company prior to entering dental school.  “I just don’t feel complete unless I’m doing something to make the community better.”  Jocelyn is quick to point out that she’s not the only one who feels that way.  “There are a lot of people at NYU who are highly motivated to make a difference—and not just students, but professors and administrators as well.  It becomes contagious when you see other leaders step up and get involved in a cause like this.” 

Another student leader who played an important role was third-year student Marcus Johnson, the president of NYU’s ASDA (American Student Dental Association).  One of the reasons Marcus was motivated to participate in the event was his desire to have his school seen by the Harlem community as a resource on health issues, even though the school and the community are many miles apart.  Like Jocelyn, he also is driven by a desire to give back.  “I was raised to believe that if you’re not exhausted by the time you go to bed, you didn’t do enough that day,” he said.

Two other students who were critical to the event’s fund-raising efforts were twins Dmitry and Alxandr Baron.  In the words of Marcus, “The Baron brothers were tenacious when it came to seeking and getting donations.  Their resourcefulness is simply unparalleled.”  Marcus also raved about the upbeat Jocelyn’s ability to keep everyone feeling positive and on track. 

Another key student leader doesn’t even attend NYU.  Marvin Baptiste, a student at Columbia Dental School and the national president of SNDA, saw to it that students from such schools as Tufts University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and his own university participated in the walk.  Publicity generated by SNDA, the majority of whose members are minorities, has already led other dental schools across the country to plan their own oral cancer walks.

Both Jocelyn and Marcus were also thankful for the leadership, focus and inspiration provided by NYU faculty mentor Dr. Kerr.  According to Jocelyn, “Whenever we’d start to get distracted by exams or other responsibilities, Dr. Kerr always found a way to help us push forward.” She also gave much credit for the event’s publicity to Dr. Richard Vogel, the Interim Dean of the NYU Dental School, Elyse Bloom, the dean of NYU’s Communications and Public Relations Department, and Brian Hill, founder of the Oral Cancer Foundation.

This year’s event featured three speakers who are oral cancer survivors:  Barbara Boland, a nationally-known hygienist who also spoke at last year’s event; Dr. Jerry Wilck, a general dental practitioner from the Philadelphia area; and Bronx resident Leroy Saxon.  Entertainment included a folk band and a gospel choir backed up by Leroy Saxon on the drums.

All in all, Oral Cancer Walk 2007 was clearly a success, but future dentists Jocelyn Jeffries and Marcus Johnson are far from satisfied.  “Next year we of course want to involve even more walkers and raise even more donations,” said Jocelyn, “and we want to conduct even more oral cancer screenings.”  Similarly, Marcus stated, “My father has always said that the biggest room is the room for improvement.  Next year, I’d really like to see more involvement from the Harlem community, and a further strengthening of their relationship with NYU.”

This commitment to continuous improvement and the spirit of giving back to the community provide great encouragement and inspiration for everyone involved in the fight against oral cancer.  It also suggests that karma just might play a role as well.  To chair Oral Cancer Walk 2007 while also completing her final year of dental school, serving as president of the Pediatrics Club, planning a wedding and applying to residency programs would seem to be an almost overwhelming challenge.  But as Jocelyn said, “The event was a great success, my wedding plans are going great, and I got accepted into my number one choice for a residency program.  It’s amazing how everything comes together sometimes.”   

If Jocelyn Jeffries, Marcus Johnson, Marvin Baptiste, the Baron brothers and the other students involved in Oral Cancer Walk 2007 are any indication, the future of dental care in general, and oral cancer awareness in particular, is in extremely good hands.

Heartland Dental Care Raises Funds for the Oral Cancer Foundation

Oral cancer survivor and OCF member Chuck Feeney
Oral cancer survivor and OCF member Chuck Feeney accepts Heartland’s donation check for the foundation, and speaks to meeting attendees about oral cancer treatment and survivorship.

Heartland Dental Care, a dental practice management group is committed to increasing the public's awareness about oral cancer and promoting the importance of annual oral cancer screenings. When found early, oral cancer is highly survivable. Unfortunately, too often early discovery of the disease does not take place, and nationally, 66% of the time it is found as a late stage killer. A simple, painless, 5 minute examination which finds the disease in its early stages, or even the precancerous changes that take place in the mouth, can save lives. Dedicated HDC doctors and their staff made an all out effort this summer to help change this statistic, by focusing the combined power of their more than 175 home town dental practices on this issue.

But they did more than help those in their own patient populations. The practices donated $10.00 from each screening fee to the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF), a national nonprofit charity dedicated to bringing down the death rate from this disease. At the end of their effort, HDC practices raised $31,480 for OCF by performing 3,148 oral cancer examinations during a two month time period. The top six practices providing the most exams included Westfield Dental Center in Westfield, Ind.; 21st Century Dental in Charleston, Ill.; Effingham Dental Group in Effingham, Ill.; South Street Family Dental in Lafayette, Ind.; Creative Smiles in Champaign, Ill.; and Terre Haute Family Dental Care in Terre Haute, Ind.

Brian Hill, the founder of OCF and a late stage oral cancer survivor himself, stated, "This organization and the individuals involved in the practices it represents, have not only done great service in their local communities. The funds they raised will help the foundation to increase awareness nationally about the dangers of a disease which few Americans hear about, even though each year it will take more lives than cancers more commonly in the news. Their donations will also help the foundation to distribute needed information, and conduct free public screenings in areas of the US where disparities in healthcare exist, from inner cities to rural communities. Their combined efforts not only represent the highest standards of patient care, but by extending the impact of their care outside of their local communities though OCF, reflects an altruistic philosophy of generosity and a commitment to a greater good. They certainly have lived up to their motto: "Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reasons."

Heartland Dental held an event at St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital in Effingham, IL to present the donation to OCF. Oral Cancer survivor and OCF member Chuck Feeney attended on behalf of the foundation to accept, and talked with the assembled group about oral cancer, its treatment, and his survivorship.

Dental Students Stage New York City Oral Cancer Walk

to Benefit Oral Cancer Foundation

Oral Cancer Walk NYU

Because of some determined NYU College of Dentistry students, fewer Harlem residents may have to suffer from oral cancer—and the Oral Cancer Foundation has $20,000 more dollars with which to educate the public and support oral cancer survivors and their caregivers.

The students led New York City’s first Oral Cancer Walk in April, an event that drew approximately 300 participants—and afterward they donated the proceeds to the OCF.

Brian Hill, founder of the Oral Cancer Foundation and a veteran fund-raising event coordinator for his foundation’s cause, began advising NYU students and put them in touch with Dr. Ross Kerr, Clinical Associate Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology and Medicine at NYUCD. Kerr also chairs New York’s Oral Cancer Consortium, which consists of representatives from each college of dentistry in the New York area, UNDNA, Columbia Dental School, Stonybrook, and Health and Hospitals Corporation of New York City. He agreed to serve as the Oral Cancer Walk Committee’s mentor.

“I held regular meetings with the students,” Kerr recalls. “We developed a schedule and checklists of things we needed to do by certain dates. But the way I could best help them was by getting them in touch with people who could help them.”

A comittee consisting of Khadine Alston, Dionne Finlay, now a doctor in pediatric residency, Margaret Funny, Jocelyn Jeffries, and Jasmine Nicholas led the student efforts. With Kerr, the committee contacted NYUCD Dean Michael Alfano, who has since accepted a promotion to NYU Executive Vice President, who agreed to co-sponsor the event and lend some college resources to the effort. Alfano says NYUCD students have a history of participating in community education and screenings. But last spring’s efforts made him particularly proud.

“I think the real score is that for the first time our students stepped up to initiate something on their own. They always participated in past. But this past year we had some nice initiatives that were student-driven. One was that a small group of students who are representatives of the American Student Dental Association went to their national meeting with big presentation about oral cancer education and screening and why it’s a critical component in the practice of dentistry. And then there was this wonderful thing they did in Harlem, where several of our students, understanding that there is a preponderance of the disease in the African American population, decided to reach out and offer education.”

The first thing the group had to do was decide where to hold the fund-raising walk and the free oral cancer screenings they planned to give along the way.

Oral cancer is a big concern particularly among African American men over 50, one of the things the sutdents wanted to do was go into a location where the population was most at-risk. That’s why Harlem was chosen for the event.

Next came an exhaustive process of getting permits from various community boards, the police department, and the park at which the grand finale would be held. They lined up sponsors, including Colgate, Dr. Eric Studley and Associates, Dean Alfano, Associate NYUCD Dean Stuart M. Hirsch, ViziLite Plus, LED Dental / Velscope, Smile Savers Pedo LLC, CulinArt, Olympus, and Jet Blue Airways. They mobilized students and dental hygienists to conduct oral cancer screenings, and signed up faculty to supervise them. They encouraged faculty to sponsor student walkers. For pre-event promotion, they worked with the Oral Cancer Foundation, which created event posters and flyers. The committee papered the college and community with flyers, and momentum began to build.

The whole school got involved and they registered 297 people to walk—and more people participated who never actually registered.

On the morning of the event, ABC7 TV interviewed the student organizers—and the station further promoted the event with live coverage.

Oral cancer screenings were held at 137th Street and 5th Avenue, and at the registration point and the park where the walk ended. The message the event was trying to get across is: you need to know your own body, and know what normal is, so you can compare that with what is not normal (in the mouth). They also wanted to make it clear that there are two things that put you most at risk—smoking and drinking excessively, particularly if you do both, but that everyone needs to be wary because it’s not only those at high risk who develop oral cancer.

Numerous oral cancer screenings were conducted during the walk in Harlem, and foundation informational brochures on oral cancer where handed out to many more.  At pulic events one of the most inspiring results comes from knowing that those invoved educated untold numbers of people about a disease that kills so many and yet is recognized by so few.

“One of the people on the walk told me that as she was walking and carrying her poster with its prevention message, someone passing in a car yelled out ‘What’s oral cancer?’ That was really profound because it was so basic. That tells you what you need to do: inform people that oral cancer is cancer of the mouth, and that you can prevent it if you know what it is and know what to look out for.” Surviving this disease can indeed be a matter of finding it early when it is most vulnerable to existing treatments. If found in late stages, it is a disease that can easily take your life", said Dr. Kerr.

Kerr also says the educational effort will not stand alone. “Not only are we planning on doing it again next year, but we're planning on having other dental schools participate,” he says. “We’ve already had interest from the University of Washington, the University of Chicago in Illinois, and possibly a dental school in South Carolina. I'm sure that as time goes on we'll be able to involve other dental schools as well.”

“ I hope that this first event and the outreach that the organizers have made to other dental schools catches on,” said Brian Hill. “The core issues with oral cancer are low public awareness and the lack of early detection. Having numerous dental schools across the country get these important messages out in their local communities is vital to reducing the death rate from this disease. More than that, the donations that are raised at these events allow the foundation to get oral cancer screening events, and public awareness efforts into communities where disparities in health care exist. I think that the fact that the message is being delivered by the next generation of practicing dentists is significant. They and their future staffs in private practice become the first line of discovery and defense in our battle.”

Bachelor Auction Raises Money for OCF

Elana Baking

Don’t want to be alone on Valentine’s Day? Come to a bachelor auction! That’s right ladies, 30 bachelors have passed a screening test, ages 32-55, and will be strutting their stuff on Friday February 10, 2006 at the Holiday Inn in Bethlehem, PA. Admission includes full dinner, and a night full of meeting successful, good-looking men. Meet and greet the bachelors starting at 6:00, take time to peruse their profiles, and get ready for the bidding….. The proceeds from the auction will benefit The Oral Cancer Foundation and the local chapter of The American Cancer Society.  Tickets can be purchased at the Holiday Inn front desk. $35.00 in advance, $42.00 at the door on the night of the auction.

The Bachelor Auction in Bethlehem PA has attracted a lot of attention after the first year was such a success.  "Last year, we had seats for 260.  When they were filled, we sold another 40 tickets for 'standing room only,” said Regina Jeffries, the chair for the event.

300 single women were bidding for a date with one of our thirty eligible local bachelors.  The professional auctioneer rattled off the numbers as the bids climbed upwards of $600 for some of the guys.  "A couple of very successful AND good looking bachelors had two women up-bidding each other for the date. When they were slowing down, the MC offered to give both of them a date with the man, if they both paid the $600!  This year the quality of the bachelor is higher, and several of them older and more successful, so we hope to raise even more than we did last year.

Local restaurants have donated dinner for two in exchange for the advertising in the program and at the event.  Each winning bidder chooses a dinner gift certificate from a fishbowl, then pays for the bid, and then exchanges numbers with the bachelor.  We ask the bachelors to sign a contract that they will go out on the date within four months, or they are obliged to pay the woman the amount she paid for the date.

The first hour of the event, each bachelor has a female escort who walks him around the room introducing him, touting his exceptional qualities.   It’s a fun evening, and all for a good cause.

Last year the bachelor auction netted $8,000.  This year, the hope is to net $12,000.   Profits will be divided between a local charity and the Oral Cancer Foundation, since this year the advocacy topic is oral cancer awareness.  Our honoree of the evening is Eva Grayzel Cohen, a 7 yr survivor of oral cancer.  She will speak about OC screenings, and overcoming adversity.

OCF NOTE:  This year the auction brought in over $15,000 and the foundation received a check for over $7,000.00 from the organizers of this event. We would like the acknowledge the efforts of Ms. Eva Cohen in making this possible.

12 year old Elena bakes to raise funds for OCF

Elana Baking

Elena Cohen of Easton PA is the 12 yr old daughter of Eva Grayzel Cohen, a stage 4 oral cancer survivor, now seven years out from her disease.  In preparation for her Bat-Mitzvah, Elena had to choose a 'Tzedakah' or charity project to complete. She wanted to do something she enjoyed and would help others at the same time.  Baking is one of her favorite things to do.  She created and delivered a flyer for baking orders all around her neighborhood.  For Thanksgiving, she had taken a few orders, and by Christmas there were many more, even some repeats!  She gave a suggested donation price, and explained that she was donating ALL the money to the Oral Cancer Foundation, and included the OCF pamphlet which describes the work of the foundation with her flyers.  Elena was excited at one of her sales, clearly from someone interested in the charitable idea equally to delicious cookies, when she exclaimed, "One woman gave me $20 for two large cookies!" So far Elena has raised a total of $300.  She hopes to raise more money during the spring baking challah's for her synagogue. Hopefully, neighbors will continue to call her up for special orders, so she can continue with her efforts to help. When asked for comment, Brian Hill from OCF stated “ In a world that is so frequently dominated by thoughts of personal gain, Elana’s desire to help others is not only a great example of living part of your life in service to others, but a lesson that many adults could learn from. She is truly an extraordinary young lady”. 

OCF Note: My faith in the future is renewed by stories like this one about Elena, of 15 year old Robbie Schwieder who hiked the Appalachian Trail to raise money for the foundation, and 14 year old Kayla Lovett, who along with other young dancers put on a production to raise money and help strangers they will likely never meet. We literally have millions of people visit the OCF web site for information each month. Thousands more get help from our survivor/patient forum, many being helped with hundreds of postings for months and months as they go through treatment and have questions or need moral support. But from all those visitors, only a handful take the time to make an online donation of a few dollars to OCF.  A matter of a couple of minutes and little expense to them to help support a foundation’s efforts that brought them help when they needed it, seems not to occur to them. Now we have three stories of kids, who on their own initiative, have stepped up to make a small change in the world. I am very grateful to all of them that have taken the time, and made the personal efforts that help sustain the work of the Oral Cancer Foundation. What would the world be like if their example was more common?  Brian Hill/ OCF Founder.

Oral Cancer Foundation Builds Momentum in Public Screenings.

Organization seeks to begin nationwide free screening program

The Oral Cancer Foundation lit a fuse in Los Angeles recently that it hopes will set off a nationwide firecracker of prevention against a disease that, while potentially lethal, is highly survivable if caught in its early stages.

“The big issue with oral cancer is that few people are aware of it, and doctors and dentists don’t always screen for it,” says Harvey Pasternak, a consumer healthcare products consultant. Pasternak recently teamed with Oral Cancer Foundation founder Brian Hill bring to life Hill’s idea of setting up free screenings for oral cancer in highest-risk communities.

Brian Hill came to me with a premise. “You can go to a drug store and get screened for high cholesterol, or high blood pressure,” Hill said, “why not oral cancer detection as well? Why not set up a free oral cancer screening at a retailer, and see if we can engage the public in the same way.” Pasternak took the challenge and started inquiring with large Los Angeles retailers to secure a location for an initial proof of principle event.

“I had three large companies interested in hosting the program, but didn’t have any support to pay for what else is was needed—shipping for banners, advertising, dental equipment for the dentists who would do the screenings.” The Foundation reached an agreement with Wal-Mart to hold the screening at its new store in the Baldwin Hills. The Crenshaw District location was important: Oral cancer hits hard among low-income minority groups—a population that has difficulty traveling to and paying for regular medical screenings. The screening fit in perfectly with Wal-Mart’s philanthropic goals, which allow their stores to be used as venues for public health events.

“We operate globally and give back locally,” says Willie Cole, community involvement coordinator at the Baldwin Hills Wal-Mart, which is part of a shopping mall. “We have a responsibility to give back to the community we are in, to uplift it.” Cole says the screening helped spread awareness about a disease that seldom receives coverage in the popular press.

“I know that once a person is aware of a situation, they can better address it,” says Cole. “When Brian Hill talked to me about oral cancer, I had no idea what it was—of course the words oral cancer are self-explanatory, but who thinks about that with high blood pressure, heart disease, lung cancer, cervical cancer, breast cancer, running rampant and recognized in society? The screening just seemed like a very good thing to hold.”

The next key task for Pasternak and the OCF was to find a manufacturer to sponsor the event with necessary supplies.

Pasternak started knocking on large corporate doors such as GlaxoSmithKline, makers of oral health products and of stop-smoking aides such as patches and chewing gums; and consumer product giant Procter & Gamble, whose product lines include toothpastes and oral rinses. “Right off the bat, Procter & Gamble they said ‘this is the kind of stuff we love,’” Pasternak says. “They said if the Oral Cancer Foundation could prove the public venue, free-screening concept works, they’d become financial supporters to do it at Wal-Mart stores nationwide.”

The Foundation’s free oral cancer screening had turned into a proof-of-concept event that could prove to save untold lives nationwide.

Meanwhile, Hill worked to line up dentists to do the actual screenings. He called on contacts including Harold Slavkin, Dean of USC’s School of Dentistry, and long time oral cancer advocate. Slavkin arranged for a team of six dentists from the school’s faculty to conduct screenings at the June event. “The concept of going into the community--where the community shops--was a brilliant idea,” says Slavkin. “ It made it easier for people to access this service and get their three-minute screening. We solicited faculty volunteers who represented the diversity of the community. The turnout and participation was outstanding.”

Adding to the volunteer screening team was Dr. Ted Burnett, who has a private dental practice in Los Angeles. “I was introduced to Brian (Hill, OCF founder) through a mutual friend of ours, and he brought to my attention that they were looking for minority doctors to be involved in the screenings,” Burnett explains. “They had solicited over 200 doctors in the area, minority and non-minority, and didn’t get any appreciable responses. I said I’d be glad to do it. It was in my area and it was something I should be doing--this is why I went into health care.”

With doctors, a venue, and supplies in place, all the Foundation needed was people to screen. They started putting the word out with the help of local television, radio, and newspapers. They contacted Councilman Bernard Parks, to gain the support of a highly visible local politician, and then put in some good old-fashioned legwork.

“KABC Channel 7 news ran two- four minute segments the day before and the day of the screening. Brian Hill participated in the TV interview along with head of diagnostics at USC, Dr. Mavash Navazesh,” says Pasternak “We had print ad announcements in the free local community newspapers that are big in the area, and we put up fliers at the senior home across the street, at nearby banks and restaurants, the Magic Johnson Theaters, Starbucks, even an ice cream shop. But the big question was would people show up.” The largest urban music / hip-hop radio station in the US, 100.3 BEAT-FM broadcast the news of the upcoming event for several days before, further getting the word out and helping to ensure the turnout.

The day of the screening, Hill, Pasternak and the dentists arrived at 8:30 a.m. to set up. “We’re setting up and at about 9:45 some people started coming by saying ‘Where do we sign up?’” says Pasternak. “By the 11 a.m. start time, we had 50 people in line.”

“I saw some curiosity raised among younger people,” says Dr. Mahvash Navazesh, chair of the Division of Diagnostic Sciences at USC’s School of Dentistry. “When they realized that the procedure wasn’t painful and didn’t take long, soon they to were in line and to get their screenings. So it was a great opportunity to raise awareness not only among adults who smoke, but also among young people that smoking can put them at risk for oral cancer.”

Navazesh said it also helped that the team of volunteer dentists included Spanish speakers. “Sometimes when there are language barriers, it’s harder for people to make the decision to be evaluated,” she says. “But this way, it was easier for people to relate. Also, the surroundings helped. There in a shopping mall, it was non-threatening.”

By the end of the day, the dental team had screened 551 people—including Councilman Parks--for oral cancer. Of that number, seven were determined to have suspicious, possibly pre-cancerous conditions, and they were referred for further evaluation or biopsies. While this was important, the awareness of the disease, the risk factors for it as well as the early signs and symptoms were spread to thousands of people throughout the community.

“In the United States, two percent of human cancers here are in the mouth,” says Dean Slavkin. “But if you sample predominantly African American men, it jumps up to become the fourth most common cancer. So having the screening in the Crenshaw area was a good idea. Doing it at Wal-Mart made a lot of sense, and having the cooperation of the distributors and different people who made it possible made it an excellent prototype of what could be done all over the nation.” And Dr. Slavkin is well versed on the subject… before his position as dean of the dental school at USC he was the Director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

Also contributing supplies and financial support were organizations including dental care product distributor Henry Schein, portable dental lighting manufacturer PeriOptix, with the major financial funding provided by The Oral Cancer Foundation. OCF founder Hill is looking forward to the next steps.

Hill is more than happy with the results of this first effort. Using Nielsen ratings, and other measurable mechanisms for determining impact, the one day event garnered more than 2,500,000 viewer impressions of the “oral cancer and early detection” message and the sponsors names and products. While we have showcased this one event here, these free public screenings have been conducted in other areas with similar results.

Companies who normally use sampling as a marketing tool, or who feel that they would benefit from the association with an event such as this should contact Brian Hill at the foundation to discuss the details of what is involved in co-sponsoring an event that brings attention to their firm or products. A 15-minute DVD was made of the event, and is available to other potential sponsors and organizations who would like to partner with the foundation in bringing an event such as this to their community.


OCF partners with national and local sponsors


Every chair was full for the entire event.


Dr. Burnett, a local dentist, volunteers his time


Film crew interviews people in attendance


Councilman Bernard Parks gets examined by Dr. Burnett


Councilman Bernard Parks gives TV interview at screening event

Son, Father Hike 110 Miles to Benefit Oral Cancer Foundation


A Glen Allen, VA, boy and his father put blood and sweat (but no tears) into an effort to memorialize a loved one and support the Oral Cancer Foundation in the process: They hiked 110 miles of the Appalachian Trail and gave the donations they raised to the California-based Foundation.

“It was tough,” said Robbie Schwieder, 15, who came up with the idea of doing the trek through the Shenandoah National Park portion of the Appalachian Trail, and later asked his father to join him. “It was really brutal, physically, mentally, in every way.” But despite the 40 pound backpacks, grueling terrain, stifling heat, and blisters upon blisters, Robbie and his father, Wylie, persevered and never complained. After all, they were walking in memory of Robbie’s maternal grandmother, Elaine Hegarty, who’d undergone immense suffering of a graver kind—oral cancer.

Hegarty was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 1993. The dignified, independent Milwaukee resident was initially told she’d have to have a radical, disfiguring surgery. After a second opinion, she underwent a procedure during which doctors accessed the tumor from inside her mouth and removed it completely. She healed, and life returned to normal—at least for a few years.

 “About 6 years later she developed a second tumor inside her mouth,” said Hegarty’s daughter Katie Schwieder. “They removed that one, and then she was never the same. She wore dentures that never fit properly. She was having pain a fair bit.”

By the summer of 2002, Hegarty’s pain was becoming difficult to bear, and doctors discovered another tumor. “In January of 2003, they did another surgery and realized they couldn’t get all of it without taking the jaw bone, and doing radical radiation and chemotherapy,” Katie explained. Her mother decided against that surgery. “She was a very classy and dignified lady. She had made up her mind. She was 73 years old; she didn’t want to overdo the treatments and she didn’t want to live with a lot of scars.  We brought her to Virginia and got her settled with doctors out here, then quickly learned the cancer had gone into her bone.”

Elaine Hegarty had Easter dinner that year with her daughter’s family. “Three days later, she went into the hospital, into the hospice unit,” Katie said. “And the Sunday after Easter, she passed away.”

The experience rocked the entire family, each of them dealing with loss together and in their own individual ways. Meanwhile, for Robbie and his siblings, school responsibilities continued. Robbie, who takes part in the International Baccalaureate Program at an area high school, had a required project to complete. He was to focus on a passion in his life, research it, pursue it, and later write a report and give a presentation. Students completing these “personal projects,” as they are called, are encouraged to incorporate community service into their efforts. For Robbie, who’d lost his grandmother to cancer, finding a topic to focus on was not difficult.

“He came home from school one day back in May and said ‘I think I’d like to hike the Appalachian Trail.’” Katie said. “Then he added  ‘I think I’d like to raise some money for mouth cancer research.’”

Robbie’s parents were surprised and delighted. And a bit taken aback—this was no small endeavor their son was proposing. But Robbie was not concerned:

“Ever since I went to elementary school, they taught us about the Appalachian Trail because it’s one of our historical landmarks,” he said. “And in Boy Scouts, we did a lot of hiking, camping and outdoor things. Donating to the Oral Cancer Foundation … I just took the two ideas and put them together.”

Robbie proposed to walk 110 miles of the Appalachian Trail over eight days during summer vacation.  He needed a partner and Robbie looked to his father, who looked around in mock panic.

“It was sort of like: How did I get roped into this?” joked Wylie, a banker. “Seriously, what was tremendous to me was that it was all his idea. I thought ‘Holy Crow, where’d that come from?’ But the AT is a big part of Virginia, so I thought ‘That sounds cool. My kid is old enough to dream up something like that, and is still interested in having me participate.’  It’s also cool that he related the community service aspect of the project to something that ultimately killed his grandmother. ”

So despite neither Robbie nor his father ever having walked so long or so arduous a trail, the pair began to plan. Robbie began researching charitable organizations devoted to oral cancer research, education, and patient and caregiver support.

“He got online and said ‘Mom, there’s a mouth cancer foundation!’” Katie recalled. “So he wrote letters to his family and friends asking them to sponsor him and to send checks in care of the Mouth Cancer Foundation. Later, I found out that the Mouth Cancer Foundation is actually based in the U.K. I quickly did some research to find a U.S. foundation, and I found Brian Hill.”

Hill, two-time oral cancer survivor and founder of the California-based Oral Cancer Foundation, was impressed to hear about the Schwieders’ plans. “Robbie is an exceptional individual. Early in his life he has realized the value of living part of your life in service to others, even strangers. His decisions and efforts reflect the thinking of someone far more evolved than his years would indicate. His idea, and the impact that it will have on others, not only in the form of the donation he has raised for a foundation like ours, but as an example to others of what can be done when your focus isn’t centered on your own gains, is far reaching. He’s an amazing young man.” Said Hill. 

Robbie’s efforts began paying off. “Most, if not all of the people I sent letters to sent pledges —and I got really large donations from some,” he said.

But there was still the walk to do—and those pledges were based on the number of miles Robbie and his father were to trek. You might think that two people planning to traverse more than 100 miles on the mountainous Appalachian Trail would do a little pre-trip conditioning. In this case, you’d be wrong. The Schwieder family keeps active and often hikes for fun—so they decided against a concerted ramp-up effort.

“There’s not much you can do to get ready unless you devote all of your time to hiking,” Robbie explained. “We went out on the trail cold. It took us a couple of days to get in shape and my dad’s feet were covered with blisters. He hiked the last half of the trail in sandals.”

For Wylie, the walk became the toughest endeavor he’d ever undertaken. “The first day, there was a heat index temperature of 105,” he said. “We climbed 5,000 vertical feet that day with all of our camping gear, food and water strapped to our backs. I was drenched. … We drank six liters of water, and it all came out in sweat.”

To make things worse, Wylie had bought waterproof hiking boots, to keep water from getting in if they hiked through streams. Problem was, the boots wouldn’t let water out, either. When he took his boots off after the first grueling day’s hike, it looked like he’d been in a bathtub for hours.

“There were blisters, and they’d ripped,” Wylie said. “My feet were a mess. It was very painful. Robbie’s back was bugging him from carrying his pack.”

Still, as the days went by, blisters mounted, and muscles grew stuff, both Schwieders kept their discomfort to themselves. “Neither one of us was going to quit, and neither one of us was going to complain,” Wylie said. “We were bound and determined that we’d fulfill the commitment we’d made, and earn the full financial commitment Robbie’s sponsors had made. That was always our motivator. Three quarters of a day through, when we were feeling crummy, we just didn’t talk about it. We just kept going because this was for people suffering from cancer”

Eight days after they began, after 110 miles of rough, hilly terrain, after six black bear sightings, seven nights under the stars, and endless pack and shoe adjustments, Robbie and Wylie achieved their goal. Katie and her two other sons, 13-year-old twins Will and Andrew, joined the pair on the last leg of the well-orchestrated journey.

“There’s something else I’m proud of Robbie for,” his father said. “He did all the planning. He got maps from the Potomac Appalachian Club and decided ‘Here’s where we start, here’s how far we’ll go each day, here’s where we’ll stay, here’s where springs are so we can get water.’ We referenced that plan each day of the hike. And it worked! We weren’t religious about it; we didn’t stick 100 percent to plan. But having the structure allowed us to be flexible and have something to fall back on when we needed it.”

Along the trail, Wylie realized in a visceral way that his son was growing up—that he could have a dream, formulate a complex plan, and give of himself to help ease the suffering of others.

 “The trip was demanding, but gratifying,” he said, “to see my son grow and do something for others. It was a very powerful way to spend a week’s vacation, I’ll tell you that. This’ll be something we’ll talk about for a long time--we’ll be irritating people for decades with this story.”

Robbie sent $3,345 to the Oral Cancer Foundation. He’ll write his report, and give his presentation—complete with photographs and excerpts from his trip diary. But it all comes down to one thing: easing the suffering of others and memorializing someone whom he knew too briefly. “I’ll always  remember my grandma,” Robbie said. “Whenever we spent  time together, it was fun.”

Bob Dylan Tribute Concert Benefits The Oral Cancer Foundation

When Dan Roth’s lifelong friend and fellow musician called with an idea to do a benefit music concert—and told Roth he could pick the cause—the decision came naturally: Roth, a two-time oral cancer survivor, chose oral cancer awareness.

“It was kind of a no-brainer for me because of how much the Oral Cancer Foundation has helped me,” Roth said. “I use their Web site a whole lot.”

Roth, 36, is a resident of Sea Cliff, Long Island. But he grew up about six miles away, in Williston Park, going to school and playing drums with his friend, guitarist Greg Schochet, now a professional musician in Boulder, Colorado.

“We grew up playing music in the basement,” said Roth, a drummer. When the boys were in seventh grade, Schochet’s father played the music of folk legend Bob Dylan for them. From then on, the boys were diehard Dylan fans. So it’s no surprise that when Schochet decided years later to pull the musicians of Boulder together for a themed evening of music, it should be a tribute to Dylan, held on the famed musician’s birthday.

“I was out there for a visit about a year before that,” said Roth. “And one day we sat around playing Dylan songs for hours and hours. He said ‘Next time you come out, let’s play a gig.’ Then he called up a few weeks later and said ‘I have a better idea. Why don’t we make it a benefit, and you can choose the beneficiary.’”

Roth immediately thought of the Oral Cancer Foundation, a Newport Beach, CA-based nonprofit organization whose online forums and bountiful resources helped him through two bouts with oral cancer. Roth remembers well the process of his diagnosis.

“I was at the dentist and they didn’t really even notice,” he said. “But I felt what I thought was a canker sore. And the hygienist said, ‘Oh wow, your throat’s really red.’ And I just kind of blew it off.” Three weeks later, the sore had not healed, and spicy food was causing Roth considerable pain. He made an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat doctor who immediately ordered a biopsy.

“The biopsy was positive,” Roth said, adding that his initial cancer was caught at Stage 3. “He wanted to remove most of my tongue. I immediately got a second opinion, which lead to a surgical removal of the cancer.”

Roth, who neither smokes nor drinks, was puzzled about why he’d gotten oral cancer—until he learned that smoking and drinking are just two risk factors for the disease. An emerging cause of oral cancer in non-smokers is the Human Papilloma Virus. Unlike the incidence of oral cancer from smoking which usually occurs in the 5 th and 6 th decades of life, oral cancers created by this virus occur frequently in young people. Surgery held Roth’s cancer at bay for 14 months.

“When it came back, it came back on the roof of my mouth, which is weird I guess--but they caught it so early because I was going every month to get checked. The second time they caught it, it was Stage 1 or less.” That time, Roth underwent radiation treatments, which ended in October of 2004.

“It’s tough to get through the radiation,” Roth admitted, adding that he relied on the interactive survivor and caregiver forums on the Oral Cancer Foundation’s Web site for support, information, and encouragement. There he was able to talk with others who were either experiencing the same disease issues or talk with those who had been through it before and were survivors.

Roth said he’s honored that the musical community rallied to his chosen cause. “It was a great event,” he said. “We thought Dylan would be the hook that would draw people in—and it hooked all the local bands. Everyone thought it was a great idea. And everyone knows someone who’s had cancer. It really worked out well.”

At least five bands, and a total of 42 performers showed up to play Dylan songs at the Boulder Theater on May 24. All the musicians donated their time and played for free.

“The musical community here in Boulder is pretty amazing,” said Schochet. “I’ve played in a whole host of bands over the years, and they all are friends with each other. We’ve put together a lot of different benefit shows, and I’ve participated in easily half a dozen of them. The nights are always super-fun. It’s not just a regular concert: it’s people doing things they don’t normally do, in different configurations.”

Given their history of musical philanthropy, getting the musicians to play at no charge was the easy part, said Schochet, who besides rallying the musicians, secured the venue, arranged for a concession, rented equipment, and took on the countless other projects that go into producing a benefit event.

“A lot of the musicians jumped at the chance to come play Dylan songs---I could have got them to come play a benefit for Oral Cancer Foundation with no problem, but the Dylan part just made them want to come out all that much more.”

Bands included Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams, Runaway Truck Ramp, Hit & Run Bluegrass, Rose Hill Drive, Jeff Austin & Adam Aijala, and numerous solo, duo, and other acoustic acts. There was even a Dylan sound-alike contest. The event drew a crowd of 500 to 600 people, a large gathering for a Tuesday night.

“We sent the Oral Cancer Foundation a check for $3,440,” said Schochet, who says he plans to produce the concert again next year. “It was more than I’d hoped we would raise.”

OCF founder and oral cancer survivor Brian Hill said “ These individuals gave of themselves to benefit strangers they will never meet. That type of altruistic behavior isn’t something that you find every day.” These talented people, and particularly Schochet and Roth, pulled this off on their own initiative showing what can be done if your hearts in the right place. I am very grateful that they chose to associate a wonderful event like this with the oral cancer cause, and the foundation in particular. We can only accomplish the goal of reducing the death rate from this disease if we work in synergy with others. These musicians have furthered that goal, and in the process of giving back, touched the lives of literally thousands of people that have heard about their effort. We can’t thank them enough.”

The bands raised more than just money for the Oral Cancer Foundation: they raised awareness about a disease that strikes all too often, is recognized far too infrequently, and disrupts lives the world over. For that, survivor Dan Roth is happy. Roth’s checkups keep coming back normal. And he continues work he’s serene about: He’s half-owner and graphic designer at Roth Advertising, a three-person company his father started in 1971. And in May, Roth and his wife, Kathleen, welcomed a baby into their world. The little boy’s name? Dylan.

OCF Exhibits At The California Dental Associations Annual Meeting

The California Dental Association

The California Dental Association held its annual spring meeting in Anaheim, CA   May 12-15, 2005

This was the first time that the Oral Cancer Foundation exhibit booth made its appearance, and marks the begining of the foundation's outreach to the dental community directly. The OCF staff and booth will begin appearances this year at numerous dental conventions to enlist dentists and hygienists as members of the foundation, committed to incorporating a program of early cancer detection screening into their practices. Download a PDF file of the entire program and lectures.

Brian and Ingrid

Brian and Ingrid Hill prepare for the first day at the OCF exhibit, CDA convention 2005, Anaheim, CA

10th International Congress on Oral Cancer

The World Health Organization

  • April 19 – 24, 2005.
  • Island of Crete, Greece
  • Event will be held at the Creta Maris Conference Centre
  • Sponsored by: The World Health Organization
  • Information and registration on the web at:

This years event will have an additional focus on the human aspects of oral cancer in addition to the scientific presentations. One of this years keynote speakers will be oral cancer survivor, Brian Hill, who is the Founder and Executive Director of the Oral Cancer Foundation in the US.

 Download a PDF program of the entire conference. (Brian Hill – pg 47)

The Walk for Cancer Awareness, Chesapeake, Virginia 2005

What: A public outdoor walk to raise awareness of oral cancer.

Why: As part of a national effort to reduce the death rate from oral cancer, the American public must be introduced to this killer, and this event is part of that effort. Oral cancer is a disease that is not just associated with tobacco, and awareness of the risk factors for it and the warning signs of it are essential, as it is highly survivable if caught in its early stages. Unfortunately in the US today that only occurs about 33% of the time. Early detection saves lives, and early discovery is only possible when people are aware of the disease and the need for an annual screening.

Who: This event is sponsored by local oral cancer survivor Minnie Ashworth, and The Oral Cancer Foundation / in cooperation with the following companies, educational institutions and treatment facilities.

Current event corporate and educational sponsors and participants are:

Where: Chesapeake Park, 500 Greenbrier Parkway, Chesapeake, VA. Signs from the parking area will direct you to the registration area and start lines for the walk.

When: April 9 th, 2005. Registrations begin at 8 AM, with participants beginning the walk at 9 AM. Registrations and starts continue throughout the morning until 12 Noon. The event will end at approximately 3 PM

Costs: Entry fees are tax-deductible donations to The Oral Cancer Foundation. You will get a great event T-shirt and cloisonné pin along with your registration.

• Walkers with no sponsors the registration is $20.00

• Walkers with 1-4 registered sponsors register for $15.00

• Walkers with 5 registered sponsors pay $10.00

• Walkers with 8 registered sponsors pay $5.00

• Walkers with 10 or more registered sponsors walk for FREE

Vendors: There will be a variety of vendors at the walk. These include food vendors and a booth to purchase additional T shirts, pins, and other event materials.

Cheerleaders!! There will be many members of local cheerleading organizations attending……….so be ready for some fun!! Cheerleader demonstrations will be part of the day.

Directions: Chesapeake Park is located at 500 Greenbrier Parkway, Chesapeake, VA.

Other Activities: Free oral cancer screenings will be available at the walk. These are painless 3-5 minute visual and manual examinations of your mouth, and should be done annually. Screeeings wil.l be conducted by staff from the VCU School of Dentistry and from the Eastern Virginia Medical School

Click here to download a sponsor sign up sheet. (PDF 731KB) There will be special awards for the three top walkers who obtain the most sponsors. Sponsors of a particular walker will pledge a dollar amount to be given as a donation to the Oral Cancer Foundation. These pledges/donations are tax deductible. The foundation is an IRS registered 501c3 charity. Receipts for your tax records will be given out at the event.


See follow up story on this event and benefits of volunteering

Dance Troupe Dedicates Show to benefit The Oral Cancer Foundation

Picture a performance in a hall of 1,000 seats, only a little more than 200 of which are filled, and you probably think of a stage disappointment. But triumphs can occur in unexpected venues, and so it was in late November when 12 students of dance performed their best and gave the proceeds to help others in memory of a man they’d loved.

“Someone was watching over us,” said Hero Barker, 40, owner and instructor at 7Movements In Dance studio in Norfolk, VA. “They danced their little hearts out.”

The dancers call themselves “Pappou’s Kids,” in honor of Arthur “Pappou” Kotarides, Barker’s father, who died in August of 2003 of complications following surgery for oral cancer. “Pappou,” Greek for “grandpa,” doted on Barker’s students, and it was his presence Barker felt during the benefit performance of more than 20 dance numbers that her students and friends had practiced hard to stage.

“I want to help because of families in need, because I don’t know what I would do if I lost a family member who meant so much to me to cancer,” said dancer Kayla Lovett, 14. “Cancer is not a very good thing, and I really feel bad for anyone who is faced with it or has a family member who has been faced with cancer.”

Lovett and her fellow dance students had watched as their beloved Pappou fought oral cancer, and as their teacher struggled to help her father in his battle. Many of the students knew Pappou as another grandfather figure.

“He was the type of person to whom no child was a stranger,” said Barker 40. “He just adopted everybody.”

Arthur Kotarides was a jack-of-all-trades, putting everything to right with his capable hands. He worked as an electrician, plumber, and carpenter. He was a mechanic at a Norfolk-area bakery, owned a car wash for a while, worked in the Norfok naval base’s finance department, and repaired televisions on the side.

When Barker realized her dream 10 years ago of opening a dance studio, it was Pappou who helped install the proper flooring, the barres, the mirrors. Pappou was there to welcome Barker’s first students, encourage them in their practice, crack jokes during their rehearsals, cheer their performances. When productions required set pieces or props, Pappou built and painted them.

“He was genuinely interested in what the kid were doing, and they knew that,” said Barker. “And he was always around.”

But in 1999, Pappou was diagnosed with oral cancer and underwent chemotherapy and radiation. It was his beloved students’ turn to lend support. They watched as he battled the cancer into remission, watched as their teacher fought by his side.

“He was pronounced clear—the tumor went away,” said Barker. “But of course they kept checking him. It wasn’t until the beginning of 2003 that he was rediagnosed. He couldn’t undergo radiation again, so his doctor recommended surgery.”

It was during this time that Barker found The Oral Cancer Foundation online and began taking advantage of the site’s forum area to get information and support from cancer survivors and from fellow caregivers.

“I remember thinking then—and I still do think—that I wish I’d found that site earlier,” she said. “Because you hear from patients who’ve had it (oral cancer), you hear from caregivers who’ve dealt with it, and because they’re from all across the world, you get all sorts of helpful information that comes from the caregiving perspective.”

Barker’s father underwent surgery at age 77 in June of 2003. But two months later he developed a staph infection that triggered a heart attack, from which he didn’t recover. Barker and her students were devastated. Some of the girls had known Kotarides for much more than half of their lives. The loss went far beyond words; it begged for physical expression. And so they turned to what they knew: dance. The 12 members of Smooth Movers Performance Company, the performing arm of 7 Movements in Dance, began creating their own dance numbers in memory of Pappou. For a year they worked to perfect the pieces, rehearsing and tinkering until they were satisfied. But soon the question arose of how to present the pieces in a way that went beyond the studio and the stage. Barker and her students wanted to make a greater contribution in memory of the man who had given them so much.

One day, Barker had an idea: They could present their dance creations in a performance to benefit Newport Beach, Calif.-based The Oral Cancer Foundation, which had given her and her father so much support and information. Barker contacted Oral Cancer Foundation founder Brian Hill, himself a five-year oral cancer survivor, and told him of her plan.

“I thought I needed to do something,” Barker said. “And I knew that Brian was on a shoestring with the site, and that it’s doing so much good.”

Hill was touched—and intrigued. “At first I thought ‘Oh what a wonderful gesture,’” he said. “But then I also thought about what kids can learn when they do something to benefit people they don’t know, in memory of someone they loved.”

Oral cancer, which claims a victim each hour of every day, kills more people in America than those dying from more recognizable forms of the disease, such as prostate and cervical cancers. Lack of knowledge about oral cancer is what prevents the quick, routine screening that would drastically reduce its death toll. Hill founded the Oral Cancer Foundation to spread awareness, support patients and caregivers, and promote routine screening by dentists and doctors. He jumps for any likely looking opportunity to further the cause—so when he heard from Barker, he got right to work.

Hill crafted posters, tickets and donation envelopes for the benefit, titled “At The Mall: A Unique Shopping Experience.” And he immediately put Barker in touch with Minnie Ashworth, another Virginia resident who’s also an oral cancer survivor—and who, coincidentally, had been treated by the same doctor who had treated Kotarides. Ashworth had also found the Oral Cancer Foundation’s Web site forum helpful during her treatment and recover--so helpful, in fact, that she later volunteered to serve on the foundation’s board.

“It's right after treatment ends that people typically hit a deep depression,” Ashworth said. “After I had radiation, which ended in July of 2003, I found the foundation’s Web site. Just finding an entire group of people all around the world who were feeling the same way physically and emotionally, it would be tough to express what it did for me, and my husband and children, who were my caregivers.”

Ashworth was more than happy to help Barker give back to the foundation. Ashworth, who teaches a cheer organization in Chesapeake, VA, called American Cheer Elite, volunteered her students to help sell tickets and put up posters for the event, distribute donation envelopes to those who wanted to give but who could not attend the performance, and staff the front desk at the performance.

“They tell us that one in three people will have cancer at some point in their lives,” Ashworth said. “So I look at these kids that I work with and I think ‘You know, chances are some of these kids are going to deal with a parent having cancer in the future.’ The more they see what I went through, and help with things like the benefit, the more it takes the scare out of it. Any experience kids have, they learn from. And from helping with this benefit, they get the experience of raising awareness, of giving something to other people—the whole ballgame.”

Ashworth not only began helping Barker promote her benefit performance—she conceived of her own Oral Cancer Foundation benefit event: a walk-a-thon to be held this coming spring in Chesapeake. Barker pledged her own students’ support. Meanwhile, she booked the Roper Performing Arts Center, a 1,000-seat venue on the Tidewater Community College campus. And she began rehearsing her students—and some former students and other dancers—several nights a week for the performance that was just over a month away.

They fought an uphill battle for audience members, Barker said.

“Our area is not the easiest to get much publicity in,” she said, “because we’re surrounded by military bases, so it’s a very transitory area.”

Still, on the morning of the performance, Barker’s teaching assistant could barely lead her class because dentists and their office staff kept calling to find out about the benefit and whether the $10 tickets were still available. Word had gotten out.

And so on the evening of Nov. 20, Pappou’s Kids took to a lighted stage in a darkened auditorium and gave to their audience every memory they had of the man they had loved and who had affected their lives so deeply. Several days later, they gave The Oral Cancer Foundation a check for the proceeds from the benefit. But Hill doesn’t count this triumph in dollars. He counts it in things priceless—lives potentially saved through greater awareness, lives changed through action and giving.

“The real story here is secondarily about oral cancer.” he said. “The real story is about people coming together to help others, and how kids learn at an early age that a life of value contains a portion of that time in service to others.”