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25 For Research: Bruce Sokol

January 7, 2021

For the co-founder of the BCRFA Bruce Sokol, research came “too late” for his family to be personally impacted. 

“Us and the O’Neals paid the ultimate price,” Sokol says, speaking of his partner in founding the BCRFA Dolly O’Neal, who passed from breast cancer in 2015. “It probably kept D.D. [Sokol’s wife at the time] alive a few years longer than we thought, but I couldn’t tell you that it’s really impacted me.” 

But, Sokol made clear, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had an impact on his life. He says that the work the foundation is doing has had a tremendous effect on research across the country, and for that, he feels great personal satisfaction.

“Here’s what I’ll tell you: in the last 25 years, an enormous amount of progress has been made. That gives me confidence that should someone else near and dear to me be diagnosed with breast cancer, they stand a much better chance of beating it than they would have 25 years ago.”

When Sokol and O’Neal met in 1995, they noticed very few organizations dedicated to women’s issues in the community. Sokol’s wife D.D. was in treatment for breast cancer, and O’Neal herself was a survivor at the time. They had a hunch that a “groundswell of support” existed for the cause – so once they began the BCRFA in 1996, they made their annual goal $100,000. A goal, which Sokol says, was a big stretch at the time. That year, they achieved it.

“I never thought it would hit the $10 million mark today,” Sokol says. “I knew it would be successful, but never to this degree.”

Sokol went on to stress how vital grassroots fundraising and the sales of the silver and pink Breast Cancer Research car tag are to the organization. At the BCRFA, there is no one large donor – the impact is made by communities and people within them directly. 

“Our organization is very grassroots. This [effort] is kids, this is individuals, this is communities, this is corporations, you name it – it is the epitome of what a grassroots organization is…It’s evolved into something much bigger than I’d ever dreamed.” 

Bruce Sokol 2006

When asked what he would say to someone considering donating to research for the first time, Bruce smiled.

“The mission is specific to research. ‘Funding Research, Saving Lives,’” he says, quoting the foundation’s tagline. “Our organization gives 93% of incoming funds to our mission. There aren’t many nonprofits that can say that. And through our partnership with UAB and others in the state, we know the money is going directly to research at a highly regarded, national institution that’s making progress in this endeavor. That makes what we’re doing so credible and meaningful.”

Sokol went on to mention how much he enjoys visiting UAB’s labs and meeting the researchers that are working on advancements in the field. Those interactions are what keeps him feeling hopeful about the eradication of the disease in the future.

“We are seeing results. Lives are being extended, and lives are being saved. That’s why giving to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama is so important.”

Have a story to share about breast cancer research? Visit our 25 for Research portal to share your story or nominate someone today.

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