SA Cancer Council luncheon celebrates 38 years supporting Mays Cancer Center

Shown at the SA Cancer Council Beacon of Hope Luncheon are (left to right) Mays Cancer Center Executive Director Ruben Mesa, MD, FACP, his wife Kris Mesa, keynote speaker and Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller, event emcee Camilla Rambaldi, a Fox 29 News anchor and reporter, SA Cancer Council President Dianne Dorsett, luncheon chair Lisa Grove and assistant luncheon chair Marisa Jackson.

A total donation of approximately $6.5 million to the Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson, was celebrated at the SA Cancer Council’s annual Beacon of Hope Luncheon Sept. 13.

The luncheon raises funds for the Mays Cancer Center and honors the SA Cancer Council’s top volunteers. This year the luncheon also celebrated the council’s 38-year legacy and rich history in supporting cancer patients and breakthroughs in cancer research.

“As we wind down our 501(c)(3) entity, we are pleased that the SA Cancer Council’s legacy will live on under a new, enhanced volunteer structure that will provide expanded opportunities for financial and volunteer support for cancer patients and cancer research at UT Health San Antonio,” announced SA Cancer Council President Dianne Dorsett.

“This will include support for the Mays Cancer Center, the new UT Health San Antonio Multispecialty & Research Hospital which will open in 2024 and the many other cancer and research programs across campus,” she said. Details of the new volunteer structure will be announced soon.

President William L. Henrich, MD, MACP, noted the significant contributions the SA Cancer Council has made over the years, from supporting patient needs to financing cancer research to volunteerism.

Salute to the Mays Family

Henrich also noted the passing the day before, Sept. 12, of businessman and Mays Cancer Center supporter Lowry Mays, for whom the Mays Cancer Center is named.

“Lowry and [his late wife] Peggy Mays were the epitome of committed citizens to San Antonio, and they believed deeply in the missions of our Mays Cancer Center — to care for everyone and, through leading-edge research, to pledge our unrelenting effort to reduce the burden of cancer for generations to come,” Henrich said.

Peggy Mays founded the Mays Cancer Center Cabinet fund and Kathryn Mays Johnson, the Mays’ daughter, is a past president of the SA Cancer Council, which has supported the Mays Cancer Center in multiple ways for nearly four decades.

The Mays family’s gifts to cancer care and research at UT Health San Antonio date back to the cancer center’s inception in 1974 and total more than $30 million through the Mays Family Foundation.

Contributions from the Mays Family Foundation have provided a substantial endowment to perpetually support the director of the Mays Cancer Center and to establish up to 10 new permanent distinguished endowed chairs to support key faculty recruitment and retention. In addition, the Mays Cancer Center Excellence Endowment supports top priorities for future success and long-term sustainability.

SA Cancer Council support

The SA Cancer Center Council’s funds have supported the Mays Cancer Center and patients throughout South Texas:

  • $1 million to establish the SA Cancer Council Distinguished Chair in Oncology.
  • $1 million to name the SA Cancer Council Radiation Therapy Suite.
  • $1.2 million to support cancer patients and their families in need.
  • $1.3 million to support breakthroughs in cancer research and to support pilot cancer research projects.
  • $750,000 to name the SA Cancer Council Breast Cancer Patient Education Suite.
  • $480,000 to support the Patient Transportation Program, including the purchase of three vans and curbside assistance for patients.
  • $300,000 to support various capital projects including the new UT Health Multispecialty & Research Hospital.

Ruben Mesa, MD, FACP, executive director of the Mays Cancer Center, said, “The SA Cancer Council’s important contributions totaling $6.5 million over the past 38 years…have and will continue to make a profound impact for countless cancer patients and their families for generations to come.”

Community support vital

Guest speaker Shannon Miller, the most decorated Olympic gymnast in U.S. history and an ovarian cancer survivor, added that cancer care is a “team effort and you can see it here, everyone coming together – caregivers, the medical community, friends, family, neighbors — people willing to pitch in to help out at every turn — and the donations are needed. This is an opportunity for all of us to stand together and fight against cancer,” she said.

In January 2011, the gymnast was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. A baseball-sized tumor was successfully removed followed by an aggressive chemotherapy regimen. Now cancer-free, Miller continues to empower women to make their health a priority.

SA Cancer Council Distinguished Service Award recipients (left to right) Denise Gross and Lisa Grove stand with council President Dianne Dorsett. (Carmen Kamiya also received the award.)

SA Cancer Council honorees

Dorsett acknowledged three Distinguished Volunteers of the Year — Denise Gross, Lisa Grove and Carmen Kamiya — who each chaired the Partners Shopping Card (now known as the Cure Cancer Card) Committee during the years 2013 through 2015. “The Partners Shopping Card program raised a combined total of close to $500,000 during their combined three-year tenure as chairs of the fundraiser,” Dorsett said.

“The council also acknowledges all its former presidents for their excellent leadership. The vision, dedication and commitment of the council’s founders and subsequent leaders and volunteers guided and inspired 38 years of successful fundraising,” Dorsett added. The Alpha Tau Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority also was acknowledged for its donation of 100 scarves to support women in cancer treatment at the Mays Cancer Center.

Dorsett introduced the honorary chairs of the luncheon, Kelley Frost and Pat Frost, who are members of the Mays Cancer Center Board of Governors. “We are delighted to celebrate the past presidents and the important work of the SA Cancer Council to support the Mays Cancer Center,” Kelley Frost said. Pat Frost is president of Frost Bank. His wife Kelley is a licensed counselor in private practice and owner of Frosted Home.

Henrich closed the luncheon with a toast to the SA Cancer Council and its legacy: “Here’s to your many achievements and accomplishments; to the countless lives you have touched with your hard work, dedication and tireless efforts; and the tremendous impact you have made in our community and beyond — yesterday, today and for generations to come.”

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