“Why RIS, Why now, Why you?” – Fall Fundraiser

A beautiful fall evening on the Mississippi River set the stage for the Rein in Sarcoma Second Annual Fundraiser at Nicollet Island Inn on October 12.  As the sun set beyond the Minneapolis skyline, an extended community of sarcoma survivors, family, friends, physicians, researchers, and medical students gathered for an amazing event to benefit the RIS mission of education, patient support and research.

Weighty topics for sure, yet the evening was purposefully designed to uplift, inspire and expand the vision to improve patient outcomes and save lives. During the social hour, guests had the opportunity to connect and enjoy an array of entertaining activities including a silent auction as a prelude to the evening.


Event co-chairs, Dr. Denis Clohisy and Dr. Brenda Weigel opened the evening program by highlighting recent RIS accomplishments and how the three-pronged RIS mission impacted their work as clinical sarcoma specialists.

RIS president, Pete Wyckoff introduced new RIS leaders, Janelle Calhoun as the new Executive Director and Debra Cossette as President-elect, both of whom are committed to furthering the mission by strengthening current educational initiatives, continuing to fund research and above all, supporting sarcoma patients and their families.

In her comments Janelle quoted Spencer Michael Free, a nineteenth century physician and poet who wrote “Tis the human touch in this world that counts.” Those words resonated throughout her remarks as she honored Pete and Sue Wyckoff for their tireless efforts over 17 years to fulfill the vision of their daughter, Karen, to find a cure for sarcoma cancer.

With passion, Janelle shared sarcoma stories of love ones lossed, but more importantly, a vision of hope for improved survival rates with the development of new treatment modalities and earlier detection of the disease as a result of a more informed base of physicians and other healthcare providers.

Dr. Larry Seymour, chair of RIS’ Research Funding Task Force, championed the human touch of research by announcing the new research RIS grants for 2017 totaling $65,000 awarded to researchers at Mayo Clinic, Children’s Hospital, and SARC. These grants are in addition to the $140,000 to be granted to the University of Minnesota in 2018. See “New Sarcoma Research Grants Announced” for further detail. Since its inception, RIS has awarded a total of over $1.6 million in research grants.

Finally, Dr. Kathryn Dusenbery received the inaugural Excellence in Education Award for her efforts to advance the educational mission of RIS. Since 2009 Katie has recruited sarcoma scholars (medical students) from both the University of Minnesota and Mayo Medical Schools. The Sarcoma Scholars Program includes lunch lectures at both schools as well as direct exposure to a select group of students who are interested in learning more about the disease. This initiative has proven to be one of the most effective practices to increase awareness of the disease in the medical community.

The mood in the room at Nicollet Island continued to soar as Dr. Nancy McAllister of Children’s Hospital and Clinic of Minneapolis introduced the keynote speaker for the evening, her patient, Miranda Mead, a 17-year-old sarcoma survivor.

Miranda shared her story in her own way, as a 17-year-old professed over achiever. The diagnosis of Ewing’s Sarcoma interrupted her busy life as a student at Wayzata High School and her passion for cross country running. Her slower running times progressed from mild discomfort to increased pain for no apparent reason or obvious injury. When treatment by a chiropractor did not improve her condition, Miranda was referred for treatment to Minneapolis Children’s Hospital. She also received proton treatment at Mayo Clinic and now has resumed her over achieving schedule with an additional commitment as an advocate for sarcoma cancers.

It was refreshing and inspiring to hear Miranda’s story and, without question, she brought the initial question to bear: Why RIS? Miranda’s symptoms and delayed diagnosis and treatment are common for sarcoma patients and sarcomas are among the five most common childhood cancers, yet they remain commonly overlooked and often misdiagnosed.

The evening ended on a high note of accomplishment, inspiration and the financial commitment of the sarcoma community to support the foundation for the next generation.

It was an exceptional night on the banks of the Mississippi and as guests left the event, moving into the cool of the night, the stars were in full effect as reminders of the ones we’ve lost. But also, in celebration and hope for future sarcoma patients. “Tis the human touch in the world that counts.”

Thank you for your financial support, time and connections in the community.

Tis the human touch
in this world that counts,
The touch of your hand and mine,
Which means far more
to the fainting heart
Than shelter and bread and wine.
For shelter is gone
when the night is o’er,
And bread lasts only a day.
But the touch of the hand
And the sound of the voice
Sing on in the soul always.

Spencer Michael Free

Enjoy the slideshow from the event. Thanks to our photographers, Val Lopez and Chelsey Olafson.