WESTBOROUGH, Mass. – The 15-40 Connection, a nonprofit organization based in Westborough, hosted the annual Mark & David Ungerer Golf Tournament and Auction Gala Dinner recently.
The two-day fund-raiser featured The Beach Ball on Sunday evening at Mechanics Hall in Worcester and golf tournaments on Monday at Mount Pleasant Country Club in Boylston and Worcester Country Club in Worcester.
Nearly 500 people attended The Beach Ball, the event's gala auction dinner.
Event auctioneer Paul Zekos said the gala rivaled top events held in Palm Beach, Fla., and New York City.
"I have never been to an event that combined atmosphere, service and food quality to the extent of this function," said attendee Mark Waxler. "Even more important was the financial generosity of the guests. They were bidding on the items for the sole purpose of giving. People gave from the heart."
Winning bids ranged from $4,000 to $23,000. The generosity of the guests was driven by both personal experiences with journeys that have delayed a cancer diagnosis and the emotional story of young adult cancer survivor Alex Lizotte.
Lizotte, a student at the United States Naval Academy and Grafton resident, self-detected his cancer and advocated for his care as he learned first-hand that medical professionals can be hesitant to consider a cancer diagnosis in young adults. Lizotte explained that early cancer detection allowed him to beat the disease and get back to pursuing his dreams. He shares his story with friends, classmates and others and provides them with 15-40 Connection self-exam instruction cards to encourage them to learn from his experience and to be vigilant about knowing their bodies and advocating for their health care.
"Every year we come to the event thinking we were 'doing our part' to help this terrific cause and, when it's over, we realize we get far more than we give from participating in these incredible two days," said attendee Karyn Wagner. "It's a privilege to be a part of it."
A full field of golfers enjoyed outstanding weather, a barbecue lunch, cocktails, dinner, golf and entertainment.
Golfers included former New England Patriots player and young adult cancer survivor Joe Andruzzi, former New England Patriots player Patrick Pass, and former Boston Bruins players Rick Middleton, Derek Sanderson and Bob Sweeney.
Money raised will support 15-40 Connection early cancer detection education.
The 15-40 Connection is reaching out to teens and young adults to remedy the fact that cancer survival rates in the 15-to-40 age range have not improved since 1975, according to the group's literature. The lack of awareness about the incidence of cancer in this age group and not knowing that early cancer symptoms often show themselves as subtle but persistent changes in health causes delays in diagnosis and allows cancer time to progress to advance stages that are more difficult to treat.