By Christopher Nagy
PCUPS Foundation Raises Awareness About Prostate Cancer
Tom Albrecht fully understands that his target audience isn’t always in tune with the message he wants to convey.
He knows his mission can be an uphill battle, but the importance of his message provides him with the motivation and drive to keep speaking up – because the lives of those he is speaking to just might depend on hearing it.
“Many men do not talk about their health issues,” Albrecht said. “I myself have had medical issues that aren’t fun to talk about, from growing up with an (immunoglobulin A) blood immune deficiency to having sleep apnea. I have learned at an early age, life is very short and many people are counting on us, including your family and friends.”
As the founder and chief executive officer of the Mount Pleasant-based Prostate Cancer – Understanding, Prevention, Screenings (PCUPS) Foundation, Albrecht and his colleagues are helping to raise awareness and spread education about prostate cancer through sports and recreation. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 174,650 new cases of prostate cancer in the U.S. in 2019, resulting in approximately 31,620 deaths. The disease is the second leading cause of cancer death among American males, falling only behind lung cancer.
September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which annually promotes men’s health and wellness through an educational campaign about early-detection screenings and the signs, symptoms and treatment of prostate cancer. Light blue is the color used to symbolize the month.
“We have learned that many don’t know that June is Men’s Health Awareness Month and September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month,” Albrecht said. “Many men and women are unaware of the importance of prostate cancer awareness. One in nine men will be affected by prostate cancer. Women’s life expectancy is greater than men’s by nearly five years and, in general, typically women take care of their health better by seeing their primary care physician on a more regular basis. Men tend to shy away from taking their health serious.”
The PCUPS Foundation aims to change that. PCUPS started in March 2012; however, the path that led Albrecht to establish the organization stretches back further. After seeing others affected by cancer and then losing his father to cancer in 1999 as a 19-year-old freshman at Northwood University, Albrecht got involved with Sanilac County’s Relay for Life, which raises funds for the American Cancer Society.
“Over the years, the idea of PCUPS evolved as a couple of my high school classmates and teammates recognized the lack of men’s health initiatives and awareness around prostate cancer,” Albrecht explained. “I have had some minor health issues that I have faced over the years, and I started the PCUPS Foundation as a graduate student at Central Michigan University. Over the years, we noticed there was a lot of pink in the sport and recreation world and felt it was our responsibility to put more light blue in the sport and recreation world.”
The foundation’s mission is to ensure the quality of men’s everyday lifestyle and save lives. The goals of the foundation are to educate both men and women about prostate cancer, promote “prostate blue” throughout sport and recreation events, increase interest in National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, save lives through early-detection screenings, and seek healthier lifestyles through fundraising and philanthropy. Since its creation, the PCUPS Foundation has raised more than $125,000, paid for more than 1,500 prostate-specific antigen blood screenings for men in Michigan’s Thumb region and awarded grants to six hospitals in the Great Lakes Bay region. PCUPS was recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in November 2013.
“We continue to raise awareness through sports and recreation,” Albrecht said. “Recently, we were named the official charity of the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association. We have held awareness “cause games” at all levels of sports from youth, high school, collegiate and professional teams throughout Michigan.”
The major annual fundraiser for PCUPS is Hunting for Health. The weekend event at the Rooster Ranch in Ubly includes target shooting and a pheasant hunt.
“This two-day event brings families, friends and colleagues together to continue their passion for hunting while giving back to a great cause,” Albrecht explained. “The event is held annually in mid-March and was the original event that helped start the PCUPS Foundation.
Asked how many individuals have been helped through the foundation’s education campaign and philanthropic efforts, Albrecht’s answer is simple and direct: Not enough.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Albrecht said. “Over the years, we have sponsored health fairs, helped fund cancer research at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center – Urology Division and raised awareness through sport and recreation events.”
There is always more that can – and will – be done; there will always be more people to reach, he added.
“We are working on other events and ways to grow the cause each year,” Albrecht explained. “Others can follow us on social media, sign up for our newsletter, get their workplace involved with a ‘blue jean’ day, give on ‘giving Tuesday’ or host a ‘cause game’ sporting event, just to name a few ways to raise awareness.”
For more information on the PCUPS Foundation, visit pcups.org or call (866) GO-PCUPS.
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