Photography by Wendy Bowman

SA Cancer Council Past President Karen Heintz shares on the organization’s legacy, community, and impact:

joined the SA Cancer Council in 1999, when it was called the Cancer Center Council. At my very first meeting, the Board was brainstorming to find a new fundraiser. I proposed a program that I heard about from a relative. When I asked, “Do you think this would be a good fit for San Antonio?” –surprise! —  fellow Board members said “yes,” and then I was placed in charge. Panic set in when I realized all that needed to be done to launch something completely new; however, I was saved because I quickly found that I was not alone, and all of the Board members rolled up their sleeves and helped implement a discount shopping card program only five months later. It all happened very quickly, and I was very fortunate to have fellow volunteers like Yona McNish as my co-chair for the first two years of the program. We had a fantastic committee, as well as hundreds of other council members who participated. They all spent countless hours on this project and many beautiful friendships were formed as a result. 

We also had the immediate support of the local business community, which ensured immediate success of what was then called the Partners Shopping Card, now known as the Cure Cancer Card program. It was very exciting, with several hundred retailers in support the very first year. Volunteer teams trained the retailers on how the Card worked, while sharing the story of the cancer center and how fortunate we are to have a nationally-recognized cancer center right here in San Antonio. It gave us a chance to build awareness and spread the word about cancer treatment. 

Because of the generosity of underwriters, 100% of the proceeds of the card sales went directly to the cancer center to fight cancer and continues to do so today. Our sponsors worked alongside us every step of the way to ensure that this event would be the talk of the town. And it definitely was. There were billboards, banners, TV & radio spots and news articles. It was a huge citywide promotion. Our inaugural year of the card brought many surprises. We had no idea what to expect and San Antonio came through.

The inaugural year of card sales raised more money than we ever hoped. A great surprise and an inspiring start for a new program.  The Card continues to be a win-win. The shoppers get a discount on many items that rarely go on sale, the retailers see more traffic in their stores, and everyone has the satisfaction of helping to win the battle against cancer. 

The success of the Cure Cancer Card has been wonderful and has contributed enormously to the funds used for research and treatment of cancer patients. Since its inception, it has raised over $2.5 million for research toward the discovery of the causes, prevention and treatment of cancer, to promote cancer education, and to provide direct services for San Antonians undergoing treatment. 

Cancer touches everybody. It invades neighborhoods and homes, family and friends. I am an advocate for proactive health care and I hope that the Cure Cancer Card continues to raise health awareness. I’m very appreciative and proud of all the Council has done throughout the years. These dedicated volunteers truly make a difference in the lives of cancer patients. They love what they do and give 100% to the cause. 

Edited from an interview by Eleanora Morrison. 
This feature was (Em)Powered by the SA Cancer Council.