Heather Weeks wanted to change the world.
Weeks dedicated her life to raising awareness about ovarian cancer, the leading cause of death from gynecological cancers in the U.S. and the fifth leading cause of cancer death among American women. Weeks wanted to make ovarian cancer as well-funded and well-researched as breast cancer, with teal being its symbolic color. But her life was cut short before she could see her goal come to fruition; she died of colon cancer last November at the age of 24
Now, in an effort to further that goal, the Hope for Heather Foundation, started by her family, fianc (c) and former dance teacher, is hosting Star Search Karaoke for a Cause from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday July 31 at Meghan McMurphy’s on Route 57 in Liverpool. The event, which calls for a $10 admission donation, will feature an “American Idol”-style singing competition with professional judges reviewing the performances. The winner will receive a $100 cash prize. All proceeds will go towards ovarian cancer research.
Frieda Weeks, Heather’s mother, said the idea came from a similar event held last year to benefit The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“I attended the karaoke night last year for leukemia and lymphoma,” she said. “It was great fun, and I learned a long time ago to never be too proud to copy something good!”
The women who hosted that benefit helped plan this one.
“The three women who had that fundraiser are very good friends, and now serve as part of the Hope for Heather Advisory Board,” Weeks said.
The hope is that Karaoke for a Cause will help accomplish Heather’s goals of raising awareness about ovarian cancer.
“Our mission with this event is to bring awareness to our cause, which is raising money for cancer research, bring awareness and education to the community about ovarian cancer, and to have a fun evening,” Frieda Weeks said.
She also said numerous events are planned for the future to continue in that mission, including an educational booth at the New York State Fair, an awareness walk at the Inner Harbor in September and a “girl’s day out” of shopping and pampering at Tawn Marie’s Dance Center in Liverpool.
All events are hosted by the Hope for Heather Foundation, which her family and friends started in May 2009.
“Hope for Heather was started because we knew that Heather would want us to continue her work, and it gave us a way to channel our grief by hoping to make a difference in someone’s life that was devastated by cancer,” Frieda Weeks said. “My husband, Gary Weeks; Heather’s fianc (c), Jesse Irwin; her dance teacher, Tawn Campoleiti and myself decided we needed to make this happen.”
It seemed a fitting way to honor Heather, who grew up dancing at Tawn Marie’s in Liverpool, acting for Salt City Center for Performing Arts, The Talent Company, and for some productions with Todd Ellis’ theater company. She graduated summa cum laude from the Honors Scholar Program at University at Buffalo with a degree in dance and traveled Latin America with “Sesame Street Live.” After graduation, Heather moved to New York City, where she met Irwin, whom Frieda Weeks describes as “the love of her life.”
It was there that Heather took a job working for the CEO of Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.
“She was very passionate about the cause,” Frieda Weeks said.
In fact, she was so dedicated to it that she didn’t let her own cancer diagnosis in June 2008 stop her from advocating for it.
“She continued working part time through her treatment, working to bring awareness to everyone she met,” Frieda Weeks said. “We are hoping to make
Heather’s wish come true – that when someone sees the color teal, they will think of ovarian cancer, and take a stand to help in some way.”
Weeks believes her daughter would be pleased at the work the foundation (hopeforheather.org) is doing.
“Heather would be so happy that we are working to turn the world teal,” she said. “Heather was never too tired or too busy to help someone else. She would expect us to be doing this.”
Karaoke for a Cause
What: An “American Idol”-style singing competition that will raise money for the Hope for Heather Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about ovarian cancer
When: 7 to 10 p.m. Friday July 31
Where: Meghan McMurphy’s Irish Pub, 7990 Route 57, Liverpool
For more information, visit hopeforheather.org.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.