The Academy for Cancer Wellness grew from a conversation between two of the partners, John Welker and Alice F. Chang as they were discussing how to acquire basketball tickets for the UCLA-UA game in 1996.
Academy for Cancer Wellness, Inc., was founded in 1995 by Alice Chang, John Welker, and the late Gertrude Welker as a support network for people living with cancer, as well as for their families, friends, and caretakers. The new foundation sought to empower those theretofore referred to as cancer patients or cancer survivors with a designation more worthy of their accomplishments; hence, the term cancer champion was born. The original mission of the foundation was to connect cancer champions and their support systems with the countless under-utilized resources available. ACW received its permanent 501 (c) 3 non-profit charitable organization status from the IRS in 2001. The founding members wished to ensure public awareness for the champion potential of all those living with cancer by providing education, supporting research, and spreading pubic awareness.
Music and Memories began in April 2003 just after Katherine Kitzman, a doctoral student in the University Of Arizona College Of Music, succumbed to cancer. Before her untimely death, Katherine and her husband, Todd Gabriel, discussed producing a concert to benefit underinsured cancer patients. As a music student, Katherine, herself, was underinsured. With the support of Todd and the many friends who helped her through her cancer treatments, she was able to continue to spread the joy and cheer of music throughout the days of her illness. After her passing, Todd, also a doctoral student in the College of Music, assembled some of Katherine’s classmates and teachers, who generously volunteered their time and talents to Memories I. Together, in celebrating Katherine’s life with music, they planted the seed for a yearly concert series that would be Music and Memories.
Faced with the reality that working families are often under-insured, ACW’s board also found that many insurance providers pass on much of the financial burden to such under-insured employees. As a result, countless individuals do not recceive adequate and appropriate treatments. To remedy this injustice, ACW initiated the Underinsured Cancer Patients’ Endowment Fund.