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Houston Lone Star Huddle Up Raises Awareness and Funds for Lung Cancer

Founder Lisa Spain previews the March 26 event.

Rexanna’s Foundation executive director Lisa Spain, Dr. Don Gibbons, planning committee member Cathy Aulds, and Dr. John Heymach at the 2020 Houston Lone Star Huddle Up. During the event, Aulds received a HOPE Award (courtesy photos).

If Texas BBQ, casino-style fun, music, silent and live auctions, and pitching in to help end lung cancer sounds like your idea of a good time, then you won’t want to miss Rexanna’s Foundation for Fighting Lung Cancer’s Houston Lone Star Huddle up on March 26.

Lisa Spain, executive director and founder of the foundation, launched the nonprofit in 2007 to increase awareness of the horrific disease and raise funds for this underfunded killer.

When Spain’s best friend, 49-year-old Rexanna Hawkins, a nonsmoker, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2006, Spain was with her every step of the way on her journey at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Sadly, Hawkins passed away just 60 days after her diagnosis. 

In their final heart-to-heart, the friends decided to make a difference for others and give back to MD Anderson. The next year, Spain—with the aid of MD Anderson’s development office and Dr. Daniel Karp, a professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Thoracic/Head & Neck Medical Oncology—founded Rexanna’s Foundation in her friend’s memory. Besides the Huddle Up events, the foundation hosts unique virtual events, “Run for a Purpose” events, and provides rally cards for patients and college scholarships for students impacted by any form of cancer.

Because of a generous benefactor’s recent gift, all funds raised by Rexanna’s Foundation go directly to research efforts to eradicate lung cancer and increase the survival rate of this disease. Other cancers such as melanoma, breast cancer, and lymphoma have also benefited from these targeted research projects. 

People are surprised to hear that lung-cancer deaths far exceed the combined deaths from breast, colon, pancreatic, and ovarian cancer. More than 150,000 people will die in 2022 of lung cancer alone. 

The good news is that the research is making a difference. When Rexanna’s Foundation started, the survival rate for lung cancer was 5 percent. The current survival rate is now at 18 percent. 

The foundation last hosted its event in February 2020, resulting in a $200,000 donation to support the cutting-edge research of the Thoracic Team at MD Anderson. 

“This event is our highlight of the year. We have over 40 doctors and researchers from MD Anderson that will be on hand to share the impact of the contributions that Rexanna’s Foundation makes. We want the generous donors to know exactly how incredibly important each gift is, and the direct correlation the contribution makes to bringing hope to the patients battling cancer.” 

The 2020 Houston Lone Star Huddle Up took place at Union Station inside of Minute Maid Park.

Dr. Don Gibbons, an MD Anderson professor in the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, loves working with the foundation. 

“They are passionate about helping us make real progress against lung cancer,” he says. “They work closely with patients, families, and friends to raise much-needed awareness and funding for lung cancer research. They have helped connect patients seeking the best treatment options, and have helped us to define new treatment options for patients.”

Spain reflects on the impact that the foundation’s Huddle Up event has had. “We are thrilled with the support, enthusiasm, and generosity of the great people of Houston since our first event in 2016. The 2020 event sold out, and we are looking forward to a record-breaking year in 2022. Attendees also include many patients and their families, and the highlight for them is being a part of a room full of passionate people who are supporting and loving them through this difficult time and giving funds to help support desperately needed research. Research projects are critical because one of the most important things for families and patients is having more time with each other.”

What: Houston Lone Star Huddle Up
When: March 26 at 6:30 p.m. 
Where: Minute Maid Park, 501 Crawford St.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and, among others.
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