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 (www.MOCHA-SA.org), created and donated by Elizabeth’s neighbor, and a special Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Antonio-Oral-Cancer-Walk/149489538451654), 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.