Written by Laura Doyle
The 15-40 Connection raised more than $540,000 from its annual Mark & David Ungerer Golf Tournament, Gala & Auction, and was held on July 7-8 at Saint John's High School in Shrewsbury.
An emerging national organization, the 15-40 Connection is committed to raising awareness about the life-saving advantage of early cancer detection. 15 to 40 year olds are diagnosed with cancer 8-times more frequently than young children. However, since 1975, improvements in their survival rates have not kept pace with those for other age groups. The gala and golf tournament helped to raise funds for educational outreach programs to change this sobering fact.
The July 7 sold out “Around the World” themed gala and auction, sponsored by Renewal by Andersen, was held at a transformed Saint John’s High School. Guests were awestruck by the impressive international décor and inspired by the emotional stories of the 15-40 Connection ambassadors.
Guests heard from young adult cancer survivor Alex Lizotte, who after noticing early symptoms advocated for his care. His actions helped him avoid a pitfall many teens and young adults fall into – a delayed cancer diagnosis which can allow cancer time to progress to more advanced stages. He originally shared his story at the 2012 Mark & David Ungerer Gala and Auction. Alex updated guests on his progress and shared the difference awareness and early cancer detection has made to his life.
Celebrity Auctioneer and Event Coordinator, Paul Zekos, created energy and enthusiasm amongst bidders and his stellar performance ensured a memorable evening. After attendees engaged in spirited and competitive bidding that sent fundraising levels skyrocketing, Zekos commented on the overwhelming generosity of the gala guests: “Tonight we witnessed an impressive display of philanthropy for an extraordinary cause. The 15-40 Connection is putting the power of early cancer detection into people’s hands. That’s a powerful tool.”
Auction highlights included: a VIP Indianapolis 500 experience $15,000, travel around the world packages $30,000, private Dominican Republic villa vacation $21,000 and a customized outdoor kitchen $12,000. Record breaking results made this extravaganza Central Massachusetts’ largest annual auction.
“This was the best gala I have ever been to.” said one guest of the gala in a survey distributed after the event. Another commented, “An unbelievable event to be a part of.”
After a night of fundraising and party-going for young adult cancer awareness, the sold out golf tournament was held at two premier courses in Massachusetts: Mount Pleasant Country Club and Worcester Country Club.
This tournament provided a unique golf experience to its participants thanks to healthy breakfasts, pre-golf massages, gourmet BBQ lunches on the course, golf professional long-drive entertainment shows, and lively buffet dinner featuring heartfelt stories of cancer detection and survival from 15-40 Connection’s Cancer Survivor Speaker’s Bureau and more.
As one guest commented in the post-tournament survey “(Speakers) had a practical powerful message. I was glad to see both of them. Another participant stated, “Pace of the play was perfect and the amenities on the course were outstanding.” While still another summed it up “Easily the best charity golf outing I have ever been a part of.”
The 48-hour whirlwind of fun and fundraising directly benefits the 15-40 Connection and its mission to improve young adult cancer survival rates through early cancer detection. These critical funds support educational resources, tools and programming that illustrate why teens and young adults often experience delays in diagnosis and that 2 weeks is key. If a change in your health persists for 2 weeks – get checked by a medical professional, be honest about your symptoms and make sure your concerns are addressed.