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By turning gatherings with friends into fundraisers, a group of determined women are piling up donations for Masonic Cancer Center research

Team Judy, standing (left to right): Tammy Magney, Judy Erdahl, Peggy Stefan, Marcia Mayo, Becky Thompson, Joan Glennon, and Kate Bryant; kneeling: Cathy Maes, Karen Morgan, and Sue Kephart. (Photo: Marlee Mayo)

Armed with nothing more than Dixie cups, a few cases of wine, and a battalion of Internet-savvy college kids, a group of Minnetonka-area women have stepped up to take their places in the fight against breast cancer.

“If you’re in my age group,” says spokesperson Kate Bryant, “you’ve probably lost friends to breast cancer. We’re mad, sad, and frustrated. We don’t want any more of our wonderful friends and sisters to die from this disease.”

So Team Judy—named for the women’s friend Judy Erdahl, who is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer that has metastasized to her bones—has pledged to raise $40,000 this year for the Masonic Cancer Center and support what Bryant calls “an amazing, world-class, star-studded research center right in our backyard.”

The group’s fundraising strategy is “make it fun, keep it simple.” They host a series of casual events like the Midsummer Wine Night they held in July, where they invited 150 friends to gather on Bryant’s lawn to enjoy, as she says, a Dixie cup of wine and a beautiful summer evening. Each attendee gave a $20 donation up front, and the college kids—sons and daughters of Team Judy—were standing by with laptops to help them make larger donations online.

Guest bartenders were Douglas Yee, M.D., director of the Masonic Cancer Center, and Carol Lange, Ph.D., coleader of its Women’s Cancer Research Program. The doctors also gave a short talk to the group, bringing them up to date on what’s going on at the University.

“These evenings are so much fun,” says Bryant, “because we have good friends getting together. The fact that Doug Yee, this marvelous director who’s so warm and personable, wants to come and bartend is just the whipped cream and cherry on the sundae.”

Bryant’s giving follows in the footsteps of her mother, Marilyn Tickle Bryant, and uncles, Richard and Robert Tickle, who funded the Tickle Family Land Grant Chair in Breast Cancer Research, currently held by Lange.

Erdahl has nothing but gratitude and admiration for her group of friends: “I’ve always said these women could run a small country profitably and well! They’re smart and they have hearts of gold.”

Bryant and Erdahl agree that raising awareness of breast cancer and money for research is critical to advancing medicine.

Erdahl, whose breast cancer returned after five years, says, “The truth is, even though we like to think being cancer-free for five years amounts to a cure, it can come back. We’re not safe. That’s why research is so important.”

Bryant adds, “People think research programs are only looking for million-dollar donations. But small grants used to explore new therapies, new treatments, new ideas … that’s what we want to provide. That’s how we can help.”

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