Like many Partner Members of the Alliance, the Ovarian Cancer Circle/Inspired by Robin Babbini was founded in memory of a particular woman with ovarian cancer. What sets Robin apart is her age at diagnosis: 17. “Our family didn’t know the symptoms,” recalls her mother, Paulinda Babbini. “A full year passed from Robin’s earliest symptoms to her diagnosis.”
When Robin passed away several years later, “We wanted to educate other people who knew nothing about ovarian cancer,” recalls Paulinda. She founded the Ovarian Cancer Circle/Inspired by Robin Babbini in 2010.
Educating young women is a priority for the group. The Circle works closely with Robin’s former sorority, the Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). The group sponsors an annual Robin Babbini Community Achievement Award, which is given to a Kappa who is active in the community. The Circle built a memorial garden at the sorority house, and sisters in the sorority participate in an annual Relay for Life at UCSB.
The Circle also raises awareness through an award given each year at Pacific Hills High School, Robin’s alma mater. The Robin Babbini Outstanding Senior Award has been presented each year since 2006, and offers another opportunity to share information about ovarian cancer with young women and men.
In addition to educational events and awards aimed at young people, The Circle helps educate the public through health fairs in the Los Angeles area. The group hands out bookmarks that feature the symptoms of ovarian cancer and a picture of Robin. “People are always shocked by her age,” notes Paulinda. The bookmarks have helped at least one woman get a prompt diagnosis; when she experienced the symptoms of ovarian cancer, as noted on the bookmark, the woman went to her doctor and insisted on being tested for the disease.
“Our goal is to make education fun and readily available,” says Paulinda. Volunteers from The Circle bring a prize wheel to that lists questions about ovarian cancer, like: “What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer? What is a CA-125 test?” The group sells teal bracelets and scarves to raise funds for its programs. “I wear them all the time, like a uniform,” says Paulinda.
This spring, The Circle held its second major fundraiser, a comedy night call “Happily Ever Laughter!” at the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard. The event raised $20,000, which will fund research into an early detection test at the University of California Los Angeles. This research is particularly important to Paulinda: “My focus for starting The Circle has been to educate and heighten awareness to the signs and symptoms of this cancer, and to raise funds for an early detection test—which does not yet exist.”
This year marks Paulinda’s fifth time attending the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance Annual Conference. “I think the advocacy opportunities the Alliance offers are huge,” she says. “Getting the government to fund research is so important. There are always great educational speakers at the Annual Conference. I can learn what’s new, what’s state of the art, and add it into my speeches.” She takes a picture of Robin on her Advocacy Day visits, telling legislators: “This is the face of ovarian cancer.”
Robin’s legacy lives on through The Circle. As Paulinda notes, “Robin is my inspiration and strength to work hard. Her spirit inspires me to stay focused and make a difference.”