As a breast cancer survivor, Carol Garcia says she feels grateful for each new day — and determined to do everything in her power to protect her two daughters from the disease.
With eight other prominent South Placer County-area residents whose lives have been touched by cancer, Garcia established the South Placer Breast Cancer Endowment. The fledgling group has vowed to raise $1.5 million for an endowed chair in breast cancer research at UC Davis Cancer Center by 2010.
"We want UC Davis to make the next breakthrough in breast cancer research," said Garcia, a senior vice president at Granite Community Bank in Roseville, Calif. "We are so lucky to have a National Cancer Institute-designated research center right here, and it's a privilege to support it."
Just six months old, the South Placer Breast Cancer Endowment has about 30 members, a professional logo, attractive Web site (www.wethinkpink.org) and a growing schedule of fundraisers.
One of the first was held in October in partnership with Brighton Collectibles in the Galleria at Roseville. The store donated a portion of its sales of Breast Cancer Awareness Month charm bracelets to the endowment. Crush 29, a restaurant scheduled to open in Roseville in 2006, has pledged a portion of its grand opening proceeds to the cause as well.
Also planned are a spring Authors' Lunch and October Pink & White Ball, both to be held at the Granite Bay Golf Club in Granite Bay.
Julia Burrows, deputy city manager of Roseville, serves as the fledgling organization's secretary. A UC Davis graduate, Burrows said she was inspired to join in part because of the care her late mother received at UC Davis Cancer Center.
"The research that scientists are doing at UC Davis will help all cancer patients," said Burrows, whose mother was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer.
Breast cancer research couldn't ask for more influential allies. In addition to Garcia and Burrows, the South Placer Breast Cancer Endowment includes the mayors of Roseville, a Rocklin city councilwoman, the CEO of the Roseville Chamber of Commerce, and the president of Sierra College. There are high-ranking banking executives, marketing-media executives and commercial land developers. The membership list also includes a radio personality, several consultants and a veterinarian.
The veterinarian, Virgil Traynor, deserves special mention.
Traynor spearheaded the formation of the Auburn Community Cancer Endowment in April 2001. Since then, the grassroots Auburn group has raised more than $1.38 million toward its goal to endow a $1.5 million chair in basic cancer research. "All it takes is a just cause and a committed community," Traynor said.
Garcia first got involved as a volunteer in charge of planning the Auburn endowment's $1 million celebration dinner. She came away from that evening convinced that South Placer County, home to the towns of Roseville, Rocklin, Lincoln and Granite Bay, could also fund a research endowment.
Extending the challenge
Garcia and Traynor hope other cities and communities will also decide to make their mark on cancer research.
"If Auburn and South Placer can do it, think what Sacramento or the larger communities could do," Traynor said.
Endowed chairs, one of the highest honors in academia, allow universities to retain or recruit the best minds in each generation. UC Davis now has more than 75 endowed chairs, typically named after the individual, family, foundation or company that funds the endowment. Current UC Davis endowed professorships include the Rumsey Endowed Chair in Pediatric Endocrinology, the Robert E. and Eva Mae Stowell Chair in Pathology and the Lawrence J. Ellison Chair in Musculoskeletal Molecular Biology.
UC Davis Cancer Center hopes to establish the university's first endowed chairs in cancer research. In addition to chairs in basic science and breast cancer research, chairs are also planned for clinical research, prostate cancer, lung cancer, pediatric cancer, cancer genetics and cancer immunology.
Grateful to give back
Garcia was diagnosed with breast cancer on Dec. 27, 1998. She was 39, the mother of two teenage daughters, worked full-time in banking, served on the City of Roseville Grants Commission, the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Placer County, the Rotary Club of Roseville, and was about to be installed as president of the Roseville Chamber of Commerce.
Over the next nine months, she had five surgeries, beginning with a lumpectomy and ending with a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction.
"Eight years later, a day doesn't go by that I'm not reminded of the cancer that I experienced, and that I don't wonder why I was spared and others were not," she said. "A day doesn't pass that I'm not grateful for my health, and grateful for the opportunity to give back."