By Angie VanTassell
Regardless of sex, race, religion, age or political preference, we all have something in common: cancer. If you look inside each of our families, networks of friends, and workplaces at some juncture you will find it. And, according to statistics, it will likely show up on the doorstep of more than 1,444,920 people this year alone. Just to put that number in perspective, that’s slightly more than the entire population of Maine or New Hampshire or the combined populations of Vermont and the District of Columbia.
At least 11 types of cancer exist, with a few things in common. They all involve some cell growth gone awry and grow in stages with the division of malfunctioning cells typically attributed to genetics, the environment or health choices. But, it has also been proven that within cancer, overall death is thwarted more frequently by early detection and the constantly improving treatment options for patients.
There are also hundreds of organizations and events engaged in battles against varying types of cancers, and many are realizing that joining forces, funding and creating alliances with one another are powerful ways to win the war against a disease that takes 1,500 lives each day. Two of these organizations include the Steven A. Cox Charity Classic and LIFE (LPGA Pros in the Fight to Eradicate Breast Cancer).
The Cox Classic and the Val Skinner Foundation’s LIFE Event both successfully use golf as fundraising vehicles. But this year, they are getting creative with this shared sport and using golf as a way to come together for a common mission: to help children, young people and their families who have been affected by cancer.
“Cancer is cancer,” said Val Skinner, LIFE founder and LPGA veteran. “Any progress that is made in the research and cures for any specific type of cancer will only serve to benefit the fight against the disease as a whole.”
Skinner has been passionately leading LPGA Pros in the Fight to Eradicate Breast Cancer (LIFE), enlisting the help of the world’s most elite woman golfers from the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and corporate partners in an annual event held each spring in New Jersey. Through her foundation and the LIFE Event, more than $4 million has been raised for education and research for a national campaign called “The Young Women’s Initiative,” led and co-conceptualized by Skinner to reach a younger generation of women and their families with information about the importance of early detection and healthy breast care practices.
Named a benefactor of the 18th Annual Cox Classic, The Val Skinner Foundation funds powerful programs that benefit young people and their families. One of these programs is the LIFE Fellowship at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey that is adding the study of the genetic disposition of breast cancer to high school health curriculums across the country. Support from the Cox Classic will help fund such LIFE programs.
“To support The Young Womens Initiative championed by The Val Skinner Foundation and LIFE means we’re helping make powerful strides against breast cancer,” said Steven A. Cox Foundation trustee, Donna Cox. “We couldn’t be more proud to help this important effort.”
Skinner will take the Classic’s competition up a notch too, enhancing the tournament’s playing field with a few of her friends, LIFE supporters and LPGA pros.
“Working together just makes sense,” said Skinner. “After all, we are all working toward the same goal: to help those in need and find a cure.”
Val Skinner has drive. Of course the 6-time winning LPGA Veteran, member of three Golf Hall of Fames and former U.S. Solheim Cup team member can launch a killer drive off the tee. But, off the golf course, her driving stats are equally impressive.
While Skinner was ranked in the top 15 in the world seven of 20 seasons, she has also been dedicated to helping others. She first launched pro-am events benefiting grassroots women’s crisis charities in 1988. But following the loss of her dear friend and fellow LPGA player Heather Farr in 1996 to breast cancer at age 28, Skinner’s passion became focused. In 2000, she launched a national initiative called the “Young Women’s Initiative” and founded the LIFE (LPGA Pros in the Fight to Eradicate Breast Cancer) Event to fund it. And she’s been driving this fast moving train since.
Funds raised through LIFE and the Val Skinner Foundation have funded an interactive mobile breast cancer educational program, with two vehicles scheduled to make 150 stops at universities and events across the U.S. this year. And, LIFE funded the establishment of the LIFE Center at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, providing genetic counseling and risk assessments and research funding to study unique cancer causes, identify novel risk factors and develop effective preventative strategies for young women at risk for breast cancer. The Cancer Institute is also heading a pilot program through a LIFE fellowship for genetic disposition of breast cancer to be studied and taught in the health curriculum for high school-level students throughout 14 states in the U.S. This curriculum will advance the knowledge that these students have about human genetics in general, and is classified as a learning model.
The 2007 LIFE Event brought the total funds raised for breast cancer research and educational programs designed to reach a younger generation of women and their families with information about the importance of early detection and healthy breast care practices to $4 million.
She balances her role as philanthropist by continuing to play select golf tournaments and working as a golf commentator on CBS Sports. And, she has received a number of recognitions for her ability to balance these roles, while also playing a powerful role in the battle against breast cancer.
When asked how she manages to juggle such high priorities simultaneously Skinner comments, “Seeing results from my work motivates me to keep pushing.”
Now that’s drive.