April 30, 2009

KEHA donations top $1 million.For the past 32 years, Kentucky Extension Homemaker Association members have shown that a dollar can really make a difference in the lives of others as they tirelessly donated to the University of Kentucky Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Recently, the KEHA State Food, Nutrition and Health Chairman Donna Shoemaker presented UK Gynecologic Oncologist Dr. Edward Pavlik with a check that brought the homemakers total donations to more than $1 million.

"This effort is just one example of the vital programs led by UK Extension Homemakers, and UK extension FCS agents. It also represents the kind of ‘research that makes a difference,' which should be conducted by a state's land-grant university," said Jimmy Henning, director of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

 The homemaker's donations are used to fund ovarian cancer research at UK and provide free screenings to all Kentucky women who agree to participate in the university's study. Eligible women are those over 50-years-old or those with a family history of ovarian cancer.

"The members of KEHA have a long history of giving back to the commonwealth.  Whether they give of their time or their resources, they have been part of most major community initiatives over the last 75 years," said Ann Vail, director of UK's School of Human Environmental Sciences and assistant director of family and consumer sciences extension. 

According to UK HealthCare, ovarian cancer accounts for 3 percent of all cancers among women and is the second most common form of gynecologic cancer. Pavlik said UK began offering ovarian cancer screenings in 1987 and since has detected more than 60 cases of ovarian cancer, most of which were in the early stages and were treatable.

The research fund was started in 1977, and was spearheaded by the late Virginia McCandless.  At the time, McCandless of Glasgow was the KEHA State Health Chairman and had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few years before her chairmanship began.

Her five children, who were all in attendance for the million dollar unveiling, said from the time she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, their mom was motivated to raise awareness and make a difference in the lives of others.

"We never thought it would go on this long, but she would be really honored because it meant a lot to her," said Teresa Wyatt, McCandless' daughter.

McCandless knew that if found early enough, ovarian cancer was treatable. She approached her gynecologic oncologist, UK's Dr. John van Nagell, about what she could do to help others. In conjunction with UK's Albert B. Chandler Medical Center, they started the research fund.

She challenged the state's more than 31,000 homemakers to donate $1 each to the fund, and the homemakers met her goal four years later. While McCandless died from ovarian cancer in 1981, KEHA members never stopped giving to the UK Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

"In the four years I have worked with the organization as the KEHA state advisor, I have witnessed first-hand their dedication and commitment to providing financial support through their fundraising activities," Kim Henken said. 

Now, many clubs and individual homemakers give much more than $1 per person.   This year, more than 17,000 Kentucky homemakers contributed more than $55,000 to the cause.  

"We're so proud of our ladies for sticking with this for so many years," said Linda Kaletch, KEHA state president. "We're going to use the surplus to start on our second million."

Many members feel a special attachment to the project, and several clubs do additional fundraisers throughout the year to increase their contributions.

"This program is very special to me because I joined homemakers in 1977, the same year the program started, and have given to it every year," Shoemaker said. 

In addition to their donations, homemakers were instrumental in raising awareness about the cancer across the state and encouraging each other and their friends, family and neighbors to get screened. 

"When we had conducted screenings on the first 1,000 women, roughly 950 of them were homemakers," Pavlik said. "So not only were they contributing the dollar amount, but they were getting other homemakers to participate."

News Topics: