Annual ‘Treads and Threads’ fundraiser helps KU Cancer Center provide cutting edge care

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Often times, the KU Cancer Center has to fight myths that medical bills cover the cost of all the equipment needed to keep up with the most innovative medical technology.

But in reality, the non-profit research hospital needs fundraisers to be able to provide the latest in cancer care. That's where Treads and Threads comes in.

The annual fundraiser dates back to 2001 and has a reputation for great food, fashion and entertainment. Janice Benjamin helped to organize the first Treads and Threads. It started with 1,000 people and raised $280,000.

This year's fundraising event will be held Sept. 7 at Kansas Speedway -- and the goal is 4,000 people and $1.8 million raised to support the KU Cancer Center.

"This year's theme is gratitude," said Bob Page, president and CEO of the University of Kansas Health System.

It's gratitude for supporters like Ray Kowalik, CEO of Burns and McDonnell. He and his wife, Jill, are co-chairs of the event.

"What we think is most important in a great community is a great health care system because we know we're going to get sick. Our family and friends are going to get sick," Kowalik said.

An MRI room at Cambridge Tower in Kansas City, Kansas.

The KU Cancer Center -- a designated cancer center by the National Cancer Institute -- is now sought out by people across the region and even the world for its patient care.

"Cancer is something that has touched almost everybody," Page said.

And because of Treads and Threads, even more patients can be treated there.

"Before we built Cambridge Tower, we actually were turning patients away," Page said.

Over the last several years, Treads and Threads has helped to fund parts of the tower.

Terance Tsue, a KU Cancer Center surgeon who specializes in head and neck surgical oncology, gave FOX4 an exclusive tour of the new tower, showing where the money from the major fundraiser goes.

The brand new building provides better care through technology. For example, MRI machines are next to the operating rooms.

"The room adjacent to that has the region's inter-operative MRI scan that can do that real time with the patient," Tsue said. "We don't have to bring them to a different floor. We can do that during the operation with not too much inconvenience not only tot he team but also to the patient."

An operating room at Cambridge Tower in KCK.

That's especially important when patients with head and neck cancers are being operated on, so surgeons can be more precise and efficient, reducing side effects and infections.

The operating rooms are also larger inside Cambridge Tower to accommodate the large teams of doctors needed for high-risk surgeries, as well as the large microscopes and screens used to see the tiniest blood vessels in the body.

Each of these cost between $500,000 to $1 million. Without the fundraising that provides these expensive machines, surgery would be far different at the cancer center.

"In the old days, things were eyeballed, and so it allows much more precise surgery, especially in very anatomically sensitive areas," Tsue said.

That means patients can lead happier, healthier lives after cancer treatment, thanks in part to to the donors who provide better technology for the center.

FOX4 is the media partner for Treads and Threads, and John Holt is the emcee for the event.