Funding hope

Fundraising done by nonprofit organizations Hooked on Hope and Car Shows for Charity raises money for patient care and research at the USF Breast Health Program. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

USF and breast cancer fundraising organizations around Tampa Bay have been collaborating in efforts to help individuals diagnosed with breast cancer.

Utilizing the donated funds from organizations like Hooked on Hope and Car Shows for Charity, surgeons like Dr. Charles Cox, a member of the USF Breast Health Program, have been able to provide patients with necessary medical accommodations.

Dr. Cox could not be reached for comment.

The USF Breast Health Program is located just off campus and provides diagnosis and treatment for individuals with breast cancer. With an interdisciplinary staff, including surgical oncologists and plastic surgeons, the Program also conducts breast cancer research.

One of the Breast Health Program’s fundraising partners is the nonprofit organization Hooked on Hope. For the last eight years, Hooked on Hope has raised over $250,000 in donations for breast cancer patients. Founders Lori Deaton, a local fishing captain, and her sister Mary Ostien, with the Florida Hospital, decided to create an annual fishing tournament to engage the Tampa Bay community. 

In the second week of October, their eighth annual two-day Inshore Fishing Tournament had 405 people in attendance. 

“I’m predicting by the time we compute numbers and expenses for how much money was raised, our total will be well over $300,000 now,” Lavinia Stembridge, the organization’s co-director along with Deaton, said. 

The proceeds collected are given to the USF Breast Health Program in order to fund materials for research and assistance with patients. 

“The grant program is run by the other co-director, Mary Ostien,” Stembridge said. “She is so closely associated with patients at the Florida Hospital and handles the post-surgical needs.” 

The delegated monies are distributed for patients who need assistance in any aspect of their lives. 

“Admitted women can be given grants up to $1,500 to help … with their copays, prescriptions, groceries; even if they need their electric bill paid that month, we help them out,” Stembridge said. 

“Unfortunately, some post-surgical needs, like lymphedema sleeves, are not covered by most insurance; that’s how we can help. So these available funds filter through USF Breast Health. Having USF’s name backing our organization is a great benefit to be able to give to these patients.”

Stembridge has been with the organization since its inception eight years ago. While volunteering at Coastal Conservation Association of Florida, she was asked to score the Hooked on Hope tournament. It was at that point she got involved. 

Not only does Stembridge score, her responsibilities extend to other facets of the organization. 

“As volunteers, we wear many hats,” Stembridge said. “Along with scoring as the tournament director, I help with the Pamper Party, getting a donations, overseeing the silent auction and getting sponsorships.” 

First day events include interactive silent auction raffles and costume contests. 

Other aspects of the events include breast cancer survivors sharing their stories and the Pamper Party event. 

“We pamper survivors and angels with gifts, hair stylists, nail artists, masseuses and an arts program,” Stembridge said.

Another Tampa Bay-based nonprofit organization that fundraises for breast cancer research is Car Shows for Charity. One hundred percent of the registration and entry fees go to the USF Breast Health Program, according to Suzann Painter, the organization’s founder and director of public relations. Her inspiration for this event was her Grandmother. 

“Nine years ago, when my daughter and friend walked in the Susan G. Komen Three Day Walk for the Cure, my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time and didn’t want to battle it,” Painter said. “Our way to encourage her to battle was to walk 60 miles in three days.”

When the Susan G. Komen Three Day Walk for the Cure left Tampa Bay, Painter decided to continue the spirit of the initiative and further engage the community in breast cancer awareness events. 

Originally known as the first annual Palm Harbor car show, the event evolved into Car Shows for Charity. Last May, the event drew in nearly 300 cars and over 2,500 people. 

“At our flagship event, $12,500 was raised,” Painter said. “With participants preregistering and giving $20 before the event and $25 the day of, we calculated each car averaging $49.41. With all of the funds, we wrote a check to Dr. Cox at USF Breast Health to receive the complete donation.

“Our committee chose this organization because with low overhead (and) administrative costs and accountability, USF Breast Health was accounting where all of our funds went.” 

Both organizations highly encourage USF students to reach out to volunteer coordinators to assist with events.