"Charity with an ATTITUDE" reads the mission statement along the top of the Cancer Sucks Web site, and that's no joke. With a moniker that cuts to the core of what the non-profit is about without any ambiguity, it is no surprise that the organization's events throughout the year equally pull no punches. Thanks to the institution, one is likely to enjoy a rousing night of poker, peruse a tattoo convention complete with live music, or enjoy a car and motorcycle show all the while contributing to the research and cure of cancer.
"We don't sell girl scout cookies," said Cancer Sucks founder Rick Horton.
Horton wanted to put a different spin on the concept of what charity events could be; something that would appeal to a different crowd beyond those directly affected by the disease. Almost 10 years ago, Cancer Sucks was born.
"People can come [to our events] and not realize that they are donating to a cancer charity," Horton said.
Perhaps there is no better example of Horton's take on charity than the non-profit organization's final event of the year, the 5th Annual Cancer Sucks Concert. Ten regional artists gather on Sat., Nov. 28 at Cain's Ballroom, 423 N. Main, along with hundreds of fans and volunteers to raise money for brain tumor research. Admission tickets are available at the usual Cain's Ballroom outlets such as Ida Red and Reasor's in addition to Cancersucks.com and from performing artists themselves. The cost is $10.
The list of performing bands is long and impressive: Rev Theory, Signum Ad, Stone Cold Sober, Sweatin Bullets, Pedal Point, Chuk Cooley and the Demon Hammers, Driveby Sonata, Brandon Davis of My Solstice, Another Alibi and The William Joseph Band.
"We start out with kinda mellow acoustic," Horton said, "then by the end of the night everyone is in rock mode."
The revenues for the event will be donated to Gateway for Cancer Research in memory of local radio personality Jan Dean, an early supporter of Cancer Sucks. Dean helped connect the organization with future sponsors radio station KMOD and Clear Channel Communications. She later was diagnosed with cancer and the non-profit rallied by holding charity events to support her, but Dean passed away in 2007. Horton has made the annual concert in her memory ever since.
In addition to the long list of musical acts performing on Saturday, there will also be raffle giveaways and an auction for a variety of music memorabilia including guitars, drumheads, and books signed by the likes of Rob Zombie, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Ratt, Poison, STAIND, and Vince Neil. The most anticipated item on the raffle block, Horton said, is the floor tickets to see KISS perform at the BOK Center on December 8.
Horton estimates that previous year's attendance was around the 700 mark, but he wants this year to be the biggest yet. "We would like to double it," he said. "We want to pack the house."
The bands as well as the general public are also invited to a pre-party for the concert on November 27 at the Elephant Run restaurant and Club, 3141 E. Skelly Dr. It is an opportunity for fans to meet the performing artists and the last opportunity to purchase advance tickets Horton said. The pre-party begins at 7pm.
Cancer Sucks, which has been awarded the ABoT Best Charity award more than once, has successfully grown each year since its inception.
The non-profit organization has donated more than $250,000 to cancer research plus matching funds from third party organizations and sponsors. In 2008 alone, $80,000 was donated by the non-profit. Horton hopes to surpass all of these benchmarks set by achievements of the years passed.
Thanks to an extensive list of sponsorships, Horton's ambitions can become a reality. The previously mentioned radio station KMOD and Clear Channel Communications as well as Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Myers Duren Harley Davidson, DinahFuller.com, and Tulsa Truck Works absorb the operating costs of Cancer Sucks' events and keep the collected money aimed at the intended charity.
"Every penny from the event goes to research," Horton said. "Not every organization can say that."
Though Cancer Sucks is almost 10 years old, the organization got its start, philosophically speaking, in 1996. Horton's mother Donna Holland White passed away from cancer in May of that year and donated her body to cancer research. Her generosity and bravery were not lost on her family. In memory of White, an avid motorcyclist, her family took a two-week motorcycle ride through the southeast. When the family returned, Cancer Sucks t-shirts were printed up as memorabilia for the trip and the seed of the organization was planted.
"She's the underlying reason for everything we do," said Horton. "[The organization] is a living memorial to my mother."
Horton wants potential donors to know that even if they cannot make the concert or if the event is not up their alley, they can still help. He suggested buying a ticket or two and donating them back to the event so they could be given away through radio promotions so others can attend the event.
"Even if you can't make the event you can still participate," said Horton.
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