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Fundraising for cancer research 'is not on hold' during coronavirus pandemic

Fundraising for cancer research 'is not on hold' during coronavirus pandemic

  • Updated

Nonprofits that support cancer patients and their families understand that in spite of the challenges that so many people face from COVID-19, cancer is not canceled. Fundraising for research, treatments and other forms of support must go on.

“When I started fundraising discussions with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), they said, ‘Cancer is not on hold.’ COVID-19 is a real issue that we are dealing with on a daily basis, but if you think about cancer patients, they are immune compromised and more at risk for COVID than others, and access to the health-care system is being burdened by COVID, which has put additional pressure on cancer research and care. It is really scary for people who are in this position,” said Bryan Schachter, who has raised more than $51,000 for the Tucson 2020 Light the Night Virtual Event at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24.

Schachter, 36, was inspired to accept the role of Executive Challenge Chair after making a financial donation to Light the Night last year.

The Tucson native has a long history of supporting those with blood cancers: After a good friend and former roommate, Richard Sims, contracted Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Schachter registered with the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation during a Birthright Israel trip in 2009. Though Sims passed away soon after the trip, Schachter was identified as a match for another patient battling Hodkgin’s lymphoma and donated stem cells twice within the next few years.

“I feel like I had the chance to honor my friend by doing the stem cell donations. I am really glad I had the opportunity to give back and pay tribute to him and his family,” said Schachter.

He has paid that tribute forward with his fundraising effort this year, which started as an email request to family and friends and then expanded to business contacts through his job as Chief Investment Officer for Watermark Retirement Communities, a national senior housing owner/operator based in Tucson with properties in 21 states.

“I didn’t know what to expect during such a challenging year, so I started with a goal of $2,500. I quickly blew through that, and it just took on a life of its own. … I think the story really resonated with folks. It was amazing hearing the number of people who responded and said, ‘I have gone through cancer myself,’ or ‘My mother or my son has been through it.’ There are lots of personal connections, and my story struck the right nerve with them,” said Schachter.

At last count, Schachter had almost 200 individual donations ranging from $10 to $5,000.

He credits colleagues and contacts within the health-care industry for their incredible generosity in bringing his goal to fruition and making the Tucson event goal of $230,000 possible.

“I am on the finance side of the health-care services industry. Looking back, I didn’t quite realize how much all the folks in the industry are committed to health and well-being, and cancer ties into that. When someone they knew in the industry was reaching out with such a worthy cause, they felt compelled to be extremely generous, and I am blown away,” he said.

The local chapter of the LLS is equally humbled and grateful to the many individuals and teams who have contributed, according to Campaign Development Manager Christina Stucki. She also credited Presenting Sponsor Tucson Subaru and businesses such as Walgreens, Discount Tire and Burlington for retail campaign support that helps facilitate continued research and services, including travel grants for local blood cancer patients and their families.

“The assistance we provide to patients is even more essential right now than ever, and it has been very uplifting to see people rally around this year,” said Stucki.

Cancer support services from another local nonprofit, Bag It!, also remain vital in the face of changing fundraising techniques, according to Volunteer and Event Coordinator Lisa Terrazas.

Bag It!, which educates, supports and empowers those affected by cancer, has changed out its signature annual hike for Get Moving for Bag It!, a virtual fundraiser that began last Friday and continues through Sunday, Oct. 25.

The event offers daily chats, activities and inspirations (meditation, yoga, dance, demonstrations and more) designed to educate and motivate participants. Registrants are also asked to complete an activity — a hike, run, walk, swim, bike ride, or other form of recreation — at their convenience and are eligible for drawings and contests. Festivities will culminate in a Virtual Program Celebration at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25.

“The concept is to be active. People can choose any activity they want on their time and their turf, so to speak,” said Terrazas.

All proceeds from the event, including “Static Donations,” help fund Bag It! bags. The canvas bags are available in English and Spanish and are distributed to newly diagnosed cancer patients to “fight the fear” of cancer and empower them to self-advocate. Each bag contains a tabulated binder in which to organize lab and test results, insurance paper and other medical records. Bags also contain educational information and resources about healthy eating and healthy living during treatment, a personal My Companion Journal and other helpful items.

Terrazas hopes that the upcoming virtual event will raise at least $35,000 to help support the cause while also promoting awareness about Bag It!

“We distributed about 1,000 bags last year. They are moving across the country, and that is the beauty of us getting the word out through this fundraiser. We aren’t limited to just one day in Tucson. We can have all of our Bag It! friends join us throughout the week since it is virtual,” said Terrazas.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at

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