Spirit of Empowerment Awards 2014
Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) presents its annual Spirit of Empowerment awards torecognize the contributions of individuals and organizations that help us educate and support thehereditary breast and ovarian cancer community. We will be announcing our2014 awards in Spring, 2014.
- Media: Stacey Sager
Throughout her reporting career with Channel 7 Eyewitness News, Stacey has received numerous nominations and citations for her reporting. In the spring of 1999 at age 30, Stacey was diagnosed with breast cancer. Twelve years later she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and learned that she had a BCRA1 mutation. Stacey has publicly shared her personal journey reaching thousands of women with lifesaving information. Kara DioGuardi (see below) was one person who publicly revealed how Stacey’s report changed her life. This year Stacey joined Kara as host and co-chair of the FORCE NYC Spring Benefit, raising critical funds to help in our efforts to raise awareness, educate, and advocate for the HBOC community.
- Media: Kara DioGuardi
Kara DioGuardi is a Grammy-nominated songwriter, producer, Warner Brothers music executive, publisher, author of A Helluva High Note: Surviving Life, Love and American Idol, and TV personality. One of the world’s most successful contemporary songwriters, Kara’s songs have appeared on more than 160 million albums by artists including Pink, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Katy Perry, Rascal Flatts, Gwen Stefani, and Celine Dion. In 2011, Kara watched a news report on Channel 7 Eyewitness News, by reporter Stacey Sager who shared her own story of breast and early-stage ovarian cancer, and her BRCA mutation status. Kara’s mother, Carol died of ovarian cancer, and based on Stacey’s report, she pursued BRCA testing. Kara tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation and decided to have prophylactic surgery to remove her ovaries. Her celebrity gave her the opportunity to “pay it forward”–sharing her story in People magazine and Access Hollywood. This year Kara co-chaired of our NYC Spring Benefit raising critical funds for FORCE programs.
- Media: Annie Parker
Annie Parker has known cancer all of her life. At age 13, Annie lost her mother to breast cancer. Later, her sister and cousin both lost their battles with breast cancer. Shortly after her sister’s passing, Annie was diagnosed with breast cancer. Years later, she fought stage 3 ovarian cancer, and nine years ago she was diagnosed with another cancer—an unknown primary behind her liver. Convinced that the cancer in her family was hereditary, in 1995, she was one of the first women to undergo genetic testing, which confirmed her fears: the test showed that she carries a BRCA1 mutation.
Determined to use her experiences to empower other women, Annie wrote a number of published articles. Director Steve Bernstein was inspired by her story, as well as the work of geneticist Dr. Mary-Claire King. He wove the two women’s stories into Decoding Annie Parker, a feature film starring Helen Hunt and Aaron Paul. Annie has become a dear friend of FORCE, and participated in our five screenings of Decoding Annie Parker last Fall. The events helped to educate thousands of people about HBOC, empowered them with information, and raised critical funds for the HBOC community. Her story of survival has been an inspiration for other people facing hereditary cancer.
- Individual Commitment: Karen Hurley, PhD
Karen Hurley, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in hereditary cancer risk. She spent eight years on faculty at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center providing services for high-risk patients and conducting NCI-funded research on patient decision making about prophylactic surgery and other psychosocial issues relevant to familial cancer. Dr. Hurley is now in private practice in New York City. She has provided psychotherapy and consultation to over 375 individuals, couples, and families with BRCA, familial breast/ovarian cancer, Lynch Syndrome, and other forms of hereditary cancer. As a long-standing member of our advisory board, Dr. Hurley has conducted numerous webinars, presentations and workshops for FORCE. Her insights on the emotional impact of hereditary cancer have informed many of our programs, newsletter articles and print materials. Dr. Hurley’s voice is one of balance and empowerment, giving our community the emotional tools to make informed decisions about HBOC.
- Indivdidual Commitment: Kate Downey Berges
Kate Downey Berges, with tremendous support from her community, raised $40,000 for FORCE through organizing and chairing golf tournament fundraisers. She actively raises BRCA awareness by sharing her family’s story in newspaper articles, TV news, and local speeches. Kate also volunteers as the Show & Tell Room photographer at our annual conferences.
Kate’s parents, Phebe and Fred Downey, established the Downey Sisters’ Fund in 2009 when all four of their daughters discovered they had inherited their Irish father’s BRCA1 mutation. This fund helps educate the public and medical community about the genetic risks of breast and ovarian cancer. Most recently, the fund sponsored FORCE’s newest publication, Information about BRCA Testing for Men. While Kate has been the most vocal and visible of the Downey Family, her entire extended family has courageously supported her with tremendous unity, generosity and an unfaltering dedication to “pay it forward”- hoping to save lives by supporting FORCE while sharing their complicated individual and collective journeys.
- Corporate Commitment: Sisco + Berluti
Lisa Sisco and Carolyn Berluti, the duo behind Sisco + Berluti, are sisters from a large, close-knit Italian family. Drawn to the many varieties and textures of new and vintage beads from around the world, Lisa and Carolyn began stringing bracelets as a way to satisfy their creative passions. Within a short time, Sisco + Berluti has become a highly sought-after jewelry brand. Hereditary cancers have impacted the Sisco family for several generations.
The sisters are therefore committed to using the success of their jewelry line to help advance the important work of FORCE.
- Research: Mark H. Greene, MD
Dr. Greene has a long-standing commitment to public service through his research. Through his work at the Mayo Clinic and the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Greene has spent his career advancing our knowledge of HBOC and hereditary ovarian cancer. He led the landmark GOG 199 study to look for better ways to detect ovarian cancer, and better understand how gynecologic cancers form in high-risk women. His work was groundbreaking to our understanding of fallopian tube origins of ovarian cancer in mutation carriers. His work on the international collaboration known as CIMBA is studying how other gene impact risk in BRCA mutation carriers. Dr. Greene has been a staunch advocate for assuring that the voice of the hereditary cancer community is represented in research. He facilitated the inclusion of FORCE as advocate representatives in the Gynecologic Oncology Group cooperative group as well as endorsing our representation on the Centers for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women. He is the author of many important research publications and wrote the foreword for the FORCE-endorsed book Confronting Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer.
- Advocacy: Sharon Terry, President and CEO of the Genetic Alliance
- Advocacy: American Civil Liberties Union organized the successful challenge of Myriad's gene patents.
- Arts & Media: Dina Roth Port, award-winning freelance writer, journalist, and author.
- Arts & Media: Joi Morris, author of Positive Results.
- Individual Commitment: The Byer Family
- Research: Steven Narod, MD, Tier I Canada Research Chair in Breast Cancer and a senior scientist at Women’s College Research Institute.
Arts & Media: Kathy Steligo, author of the Breast Reconstruction Guidebook, and editor of Joining FORCEs newsletter.
Advocacy: Komen for the Cure, for the impact of their advocacy work on the lives of people facing hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.”
Advocacy: Ellen Matloff, MS, genetic counselor and director of Yale Cancer Center Genetic Counseling Program and plaintiff in the ACLU patent lawsuit.
Corporate Commitment: Tiny Little T Shirt Company
Individual Commitment: Dara & Molly Marias & Myron Caplan, The Butterfly Project
Research: Dr. Francis Collins
The inaugural Spirit of Empowerment awards were presented at the 5th Annual Joining FORCEs Conference in Orlando, FL. Recipients for the inaugural award were:
- Arts & Media: Joanna Rudnick, Producer & Director, In the Family
- Research: Timothy R. Rebbeck, Ph.D., Cancer Center Genetics, Epidemiology and Risk Reduction Program at Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA
- Advocacy: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
- Corporate Commitment: Enell, Inc.
- Individual Commitment: Michael Sosin
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