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Kimberly J. Vuona Memorial Golf Tournament marks 10-year milestone

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“We figured out a way to do something good from something bad” 

Posted: May 2013 | Updated: March 2014

Saturday, May 18, 2013, dawned clear and bright—ideal weather for the 10th annual Kimberly J. Vuona Memorial Golf Tournament at Cyprian Keyes Golf Club in Boylston, Mass. More than 130 golfers and supporters turned out to honor Kim and raise money for breast cancer research and patient care at UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Medical Center.

The tournament is named for Kimberly Smith, who married Gregg Vuona in September 2001. Before their first wedding anniversary, Kim was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. On September 23, 2003, one day after their second anniversary, she passed away. She was 31 years old.

“Our whole second year of marriage, we lived and breathed cancer treatment at UMass,” recalled Gregg. “The staff was great. They were straight with us and told us they couldn’t cure it, but that they could help us through it and make her quality of life as good as it could be. And they did.”

During that time, Gregg noticed a plaque outside the infusion room where Kim underwent chemotherapy and wondered how he might get one to honor Kim. When he learned that it took a $5,000 donation, he met with his brother and parents to figure out how to raise the money. They came up with the idea of a golf tournament, and Kim’s father’s club offered to host it.

“My original goal was to raise $5,000 to get the plaque,” he said. “But that first year, we were able to raise around $22,000. I was floored.”

Since then, the annual event has raised more than $110,000 for patient care and much-needed research into breast cancer.

“It’s great that we’ve been able to sustain it,” Gregg continued. “It’s bittersweet to realize that another year has passed since Kim died, but we figured out a way to do something good from something bad. We’re helping other people, paying it forward, and that’s the beauty of it, because that’s the way Kim was. It would make her happy to know we’re keeping that version of her alive.”

Tournament organizers decided to direct the proceeds from the 10th annual event to the lab of Karl Simin, PhD, assistant professor of cancer biology at UMMS, which is studying “triple negative” breast cancers (TNBC) and ovarian cancers, aggressive forms of these diseases for which there aren’t any effective treatments.

“We developed a unique mouse model to learn more about TNBC and to study tumor progression,” said Dr. Simin. “We are also exploring new, effective treatments for these malignant cancers. The funding provided by the Vuona Golf Tournament will go a long way to helping us with our efforts.”  

Story published in the Fall 2013 edition of the Your UMass medicine newsletter (pdf) and the 2013 Annual Report of Donors (pdf).

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