To Dr. Jeannette Loutsch, the fight against cancer is personal. Since she lost both parents to cancer in 2002, Loutsch, assistant professor of biology at USAO, makes it her mission to raise awareness about certain types of cancer and to teach young people how to check for cancerous tissue.
“Feb. 23, 2002, my mom died after a 16-year battle with cancer,” she said, adding that her father died later that year. “That’s why I do it. So someone else doesn’t have to deal with this … It was terrible, and I lived 12 hours away.”
She started USAO’s chapter of Colleges Against Cancer when she joined the USAO family in 2007. But this year, Loutsch and CAC did something a little different. They got Drovers athletics involved in the action.
In the 2010-11 basketball season, CAC and the athletics department designated a February game as the Pink Game. USAO’s coaches and fans wore pink and the players on the women’s team wore pink tie-dye shirts during warm up and halftime. The shirts were given away to lucky fans through a raffle.
Following the success of the basketball game, CAC teamed up with the USAO softball program to host another Pink Game in the spring.
Along with the added dates and a goal to raise enough money to order the women’s basketball team pink jerseys for next season, CAC members continued their annual fundraisers and events.
FOR THE CAUSE
Loutsch, who recieved her Ph.D. from St. Louis University in 1996, said most — but not all — of the organization’s 25 active members have a story or tie to cancer similar to her own personal experience with the devastation it can cause.
“Everybody is welcome to join,” Loutsch said. “I think it’s the coolest organization on campus. We don’t save anybody from zombies or anything, but we do make people aware.”
The organization participates in a bake sale every October on Cancer Awareness Week, an annual Great American Smokeout in November, a king cake bake sale in February, Skin Cancer Awareness Day in March and in the city’s Relay for Life each June.
CAC raised nearly $3,000 for Relay for Life this June, Loutsch said.
Each event serves as a way to raise awareness and money for the cause and for the organization. This year, CAC added the Pink Games to the calendar.
CAC raised enough money this last year to order pink uniforms for the USAO women’s basketball team to wear for next season’s Pink Game, which hasn’t yet been scheduled.
The idea came as a combination between Loutsch and Women’s Head Basketball Coach Laci Tompkins.
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, and Laci Tompkins one day brought it up,” Loutsch said. “When Laci got here, it was something she’d been planning to do.”
Tompkins (B.A.,B.S., USAO and M.E., UCO, 1998) said she wanted to find a way for USAO to participate in something college basketball has been doing for quite some time.
“I think it’s really neat that we use the platform of college basketball to get the word out,” she said. “I was saying (to Dr. Loutsch), ‘I’d really love us to have a game.’ … and they’ve just kind of taken off with it.”
The game was a success for everyone involved. By the end of the game, Loutsch was able to announce that CAC had just met its goal with enough money to order the pink jerseys.
“That was wonderful,” Loutsch said. “I was excited because I thought it might take a year or two.”
During softball season, Loutsch and CAC bought pink shoelaces for the Drover women to wear, and Softball Coach Jenn White ordered pink T-shirts for the players to wear during the game. Matching shirts were sold to family, friends and softball fans alike. CAC offered concessions during the game as well, asking only for donations.
Loutsch said she plans to give out pink shoelaces to the Drover women’s soccer team and host a similar event in the fall.
Tompkins said events like the Pink Game aren’t just to bring awareness to fans but to speak to her team as well.
“It’s good for our kids too, to understand that they can use their abilities and gifts to help others,” she said. “At USAO, we are about the emotional, the physical, the spiritual, the mental and this is about all of those.”
Donations can be made by calling Dr. Jeannette Loutsch at 405.574.1325 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Gifts also can be made online at www.usao.edu/home/give. Click the “Donate Now” button and enter “Colleges Against Cancer.”