YTACkling Cancer

January 1, 2008 by  
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Young Texans band together for a common cause

Inspired by his father’s ordeal with a cancerous tumor in 2000, Stuart Bernstein was adamant about reaching out to those who helped him during the hardest six months of his life. Learning that his father’s cancer was in remission, he wanted to do more than just write a check and volunteer on Sundays.

With 43 other volunteers, he founded Young Texans Against Cancer — one of the most distinctive cancer organizations in the Houston area. This is one of the few charities offering young professionals a true hands-on opportunity to raise money for important cancer-related causes. YTAC generates and directs funds to organizations for cancer research and assistance.

When YTAC was founded, there were no local charity organizations operated completely by young people in the cancer field. Larger charities assist patients and their families, but have limited choices as to where funds are directed. Bernstein relishes the lack of a larger entity overseeing YTAC’s operations, and any one member can influence where the money is distributed.

“When I began to search for an outlet to be [involved] in the fight against cancer, I explored several options, but none seemed to offer the kind of involvement I was looking for,” Bernstein says. “There are hundreds of groups and organizations that benefit cancer [research], but I found very few that harness the energy and desire of young people who want to do more.”

YTAC’s Charity Selection Committee, which any member may join, researches cancer-related causes and local charities supporting them. Once they accumulate information about an organization, they vote on how much money to give a proposed charity.

Reaching out
Each of the 44 founding members of YTAC share a common bond in that cancer has touched their lives in a personal way. Their efforts have provided funds to a number of Houston-area charities. That success has led to YTAC extending their reach across the state, with their second chapter established in Austin. “The Austin chapter has done a phenomenal job of establishing YTAC throughout Central Texas through membership drives, a golf tournament and a blood drive at the state capital,” says Bernstein. “The immediate success of our second chapter has encouraged us to consider Dallas in the near future.”

Bernstein says additional expansion will come soon. “Expanding is hard. After the newness wears off, you have to sustain and grow. A statewide network of chapters that allow all young Texans to get involved in the fight against cancer is our ultimate goal,” says Bernstein.

Through the organization’s success in the Bayou City, Bernstein is confident that YTAC can have a positive effect in other Texas cities.

“Although YTAC began in Houston, the organization has been set up to grow across the state into other Texas cities. The success of the Houston chapter will serve as the model for all future chapters,” he says. “This is such a great opportunity for us to work together. Through social and volunteer activities, YTAC members interact with each other and the community.”

Donations are given to a number of different charitable organizations including the Periwinkle Foundation, The Rose, Planet Cancer, Texas Children’s Hospital Family Emergency Fund, Sunshine Kids and His Grace Foundation, which was awarded $27,500 during YTAC’s fifth annual donation ceremony last year.

YTAC shows no signs of slowing down. The organization has scheduled activities including movie nights for guests of the Ronald McDonald House, book drives at local hospitals and a golf tournament sponsored by Academy Sports and Outdoors. Proceeds from last year’s tournament benefited the Uterine Cancer Research Program at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

With more than 700 members and hundreds of thousands of dollars raised thus far, the YTAC organization is enthusiastic about expanding their services and outreach across the state.

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