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Racing for a Cure – Supporting Melanoma Research

When Ken Grulich of Holly, Michigan, was diagnosed with melanoma in 2011, little did he know that he would one day combine his love for car racing with raising funds to advance melanoma cancer research.  

Grulich, who received cancer treatment at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit and is now cancer free, loves to drive fast cars. He started 3Balls Racing with his friends in 2005 and the group has now grown to 1,200 members from across the United States and Canada. 

Last year, Grulich’s wife Brenda noticed a suspicious mole on her husband’s back. She encouraged him to get it checked out and kept reminding him when he didn’t make the appointment. She was eight months pregnant when he finally saw a dermatologist who did a biopsy and recommended that he follow-up with a cancer expert at Karmanos. 

Grulich was diagnosed with stage 2 nodular melanoma. Steve Kim, M.D., Chief of Surgery at Karmanos and associate professor, Wayne State University School of Medicine, performed surgery to remove the spot and also took out a cluster of lymph nodes to test. Fortunately, the lymph nodes were free of cancer. After several visits, Grulich was given a clean bill of health. He’ll continue to get check-ups at Karmanos to make sure there are no additional problems in the years to come.  

“I was treated with such respect and understanding by Dr. Kim and everyone at Karmanos,” said Grulich. “I’m so grateful. I’m glad I listened to my wife and now I’m healthy and can spend time with my daughter who is 11 months old.”

This past July, 3Balls Racing put on a fundraising event to give people an opportunity to participate in the car racing experience. The entry fee and silent auction proceeds would be donated to help advance research for melanoma cancer. The goal was to raise $5,000 to benefit the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute’s melanoma research. 

“After my experience, when I heard about the innovative melanoma cancer research being done at Karmanos, there was no question as to how donations from this year’s 3Balls Racing event would be used,” added Grulich.
Accepting the donation from Karmanos are from left, Cynthia Marsack, MSN, R.N., Lawrence Flaherty, M.D., and Elizabeth Wood, far right. Representing 3Balls Racing are (in center) Ken and Brenda Grulich, Kenny Walters, Jay Choi and (in back) Scott Bentham. Both Choi and Bentham were the top silent action bidders, winning a lifetime membership to 3Balls Racing.  

Grulich and his friends at 3Balls Racing recently presented a check to the Karmanos Cancer Institute for $12,460. The donation will specifically support melanoma research of Karmanos physician Patricia LoRusso, D.O., who is co-leader of the Stand Up To Cancer-Melanoma Research Alliance Melanoma Dream Team. The Melanoma Dream Team is a collaboration of scientists from across the United States who are developing personalized therapies for individuals with the highly aggressive BRAF wild-type metastatic melanoma for which there are few treatment options.

Melanoma Dream Team member Lawrence Flaherty, M.D., leader of Karmanos’ Melanoma Multi-Disciplinary Team and Medical Director of the Clinical Trials Office, expressed his gratitude.

“In today's economy, a lot of research funding has been cut. The support of Karmanos’ Friends Raising Funds events, like the 3 Balls Racing event, is so appreciated and critical for our continued advancements in cancer research.” 

Grulich’s advice to others: “If you see something on your body that isn’t quite right, don’t take it lightly. Get it checked out. It could save your life.”

Dr. LoRusso will represent the Melanoma Dream Team in the Sept. 7 Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) live primetime special broadcast commercial free and simultaneously on all major television networks, as well as on several cable networks. The special, which will be viewed in approximately 190 countries, is meant to raise awareness and funds to advance cancer research so that anyone diagnosed with cancer will have the best treatment options to survive their disease.

For more information about Karmanos’ Friends Raising Funds opportunities call 313-576-8112. For more information on the Melanoma Dream Team click here.  
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