Welcome

Our mission at 911 4 HNC is to provide direct financial support for patients who are suffering and have suffered from head and neck cancer.

Our Mission at 911 4 HNC

911 4 HNC is an all-volunteer led nonprofit that grants financial aid directly to patients who have or had head and neck cancer (HNC). Unlike many other nonprofit and foundations, 911 4 HNC does not provide funds for research. Instead, we support individuals and families in the Greater Metropolitan DC area, right where the money was raised. Those who suffer from this disease have to face extraordinary day-to-day challenges in their fight with head and neck cancer, and we focus all our attention on doing what we can to help.

911 4 HNC provides direct aid and financial assistance for a wide variety of needs, from taxi fare to hospital costs to groceries. Our funds also replace income for those who have lost their jobs and cover expenses associated with the long-term effects of the disease.

At 911 4 HNC, our two chief priorities are:

  • To raise and distribute funds to assist as many individuals as we can reach
  • To raise public awareness of the critical needs of people undergoing treatment for head and neck cancers (many of which are now vaccine preventable!)
courage unmasked 3

Please join us at the Courage Unmasked III Gala Art Benefit Dinner on June 11th, 2022 to raise money and awareness for Head and Neck Cancer in the Greater Washington, DC area.

Our Story

In 2002, Barbara “Cookie” Kerxton had surgery to remove benign polyps from her vocal cords. She hoped it would be a simple procedure, but over time she noticed her voice got much worse. Six years after the original surgery she was very lucky to be referred to Dr. Paul Flint at John Hopkins University Hospital who diagnosed her with throat cancer.

After two visits with Dr. Flint, Cookie discovered she had throat cancer.

Her treatment began at Inova Fairfax Hospital with a colleague of Dr. Flint’s, Dr. Paul Bajaj. Despite the difficult road ahead, Cookie was grateful to be able to afford the treatments and receive the help she needed. For several weeks, she entered a room where a radiation technician secured her to the table with a white mesh radiation mask. The mask, shaped perfectly to the contours of her face, stayed in her mind long after the treatment ended.

Cookie learned that some patients left these masks, while others took them home to remember their journey. Others even ran them over with their cars! As she reflected on her experience, an idea came to her. What if this process could be transformed? What if the radiation masks could be brought to life and made into something beautiful? What if she could bring both comfort and financial help to cancer patients and their families while raising awareness about head and neck cancer?

That day, Courage Unmasked was born. It would soon become an art exhibition, a fundraiser and a movement. Movements, however, do not belong to any one person. Cookie asked Carol Kanga, another patient of Dr. Paul Bajaj’s, to be her co-chair for the first-ever Courage Unmasked exhibition. Carol agreed, and together they began to plan the event and procure contributions from individuals and corporations. Over 100 artists were invited to sculpt designs using radiation masks, making them beautiful, as Cookie once imagined. They attracted volunteers who then organized their own supporting casts. Colleagues and doctors quickly responded to Cookie’s idea and endorsed the strategy of auctioning the artworks to raise money.

The first Courage Unmasked art exhibit took place at the Katzen Art Center in Washington, D.C, on September 9th, 2009. All of the artworks presented incorporated radiation masks previously worn by head and neck cancer patients. The sculptures ranged from minimalistic to highly ornate, and themes of regeneration, healing and comfort illuminated the exhibit. At the same time, viewers grasped the grit, determination and bravery of these patients and what they had endured. 500 guests attended the event, and in the end it grossed over $130,000. Cookie used the net amount to fund 911 4 HNC.

From 2009, the first Courage Unmasked Event, until 2012, 911 4 HNC was sponsored by NCCS, the National Council for Cancer Survivorship, headed by a fabulous woman, 35-year cancer survivor and friend of Cookie’s, the late Ellen Stovall–a force in cancer lobbying. After the second Courage Unmasked event, in 2012, again at the Katzen Art Museum, NCCS could no longer sponsor the fund. That is when 911 4 HNC became a 501(c)3. We held another Courage Unmasked event in Rehoboth Beach in 2015 (CURB).

Since 2015, money for the fund has come from end-of-year requests, and we have held two free small events to make friends and let people know about the fund and what we do. Our next event, Courage Unmasked lll, will hopefully, take place on March 5, 2022 at the Katzen, unless the pandemic forces us to go virtual. More than two dozen masks will be auctioned off at this gala.

From 2009 until the end of 2021, almost 200 artists from various states have turned radiation masks, formerly used by HNC patients, into works of art to raise money to help patients in financial need. From 2012 to 2021, over three hundred patients have received a total of $167,000 in financial aid. We have been able to increase the grant amount from $500 to $750. Many more people in the area still need help—and help is available. Our mission is to try to reach those people so they don’t have to suffer needlessly. The ongoing collaboration between artists and generous members of the public will make this possible.

Testimonials

“I received your donation today and was bowled over. In many ways, this kindness will make a difficult situation much easier and add up to HUGE source of comfort for me and my family.”

“These funds will help transport my aunt to and from her cancer treatment. It is comforting to know that others have gone through this struggle too and to know that we are not going through it alone.”

“A totally unanticipated layoff by my husband’s employer 8 months ago created issues and a struggle that we were not prepared to deal with. Your generosity was most timely and will help with the nutrition he needs for the rest of the year.”

‘We are still in the midst of this life-changing event, holding our breaths until the next test. Your support fills our hearts and reminds us to make each day the best day we can.”

“Your support gives people like me the courage and the will to go on and challenge this disease.”

 

Testimonials

“I received your donation today and was bowled over. In many ways, this kindness will make a difficult situation much easier and add up to HUGE source of comfort for me and my family.”

“These funds will help transport my aunt to and from her cancer treatment. It is comforting to know that others have gone through this struggle too and to know that we are not going through it alone.”

“A totally unanticipated layoff by my husband’s employer 8 months ago created issues and a struggle that we were not prepared to deal with. Your generosity was most timely and will help with the nutrition he needs for the rest of the year.”

‘We are still in the midst of this life-changing event, holding our breaths until the next test. Your support fills our hearts and reminds us to make each day the best day we can.”

“Your support gives people like me the courage and the will to go on and challenge this disease.”

 

911 4 HNC Board of Directors
Directors
  • Gopal K. Bajaj, MD, MBA
  • José Dominguez
  • Carol Kanga
  • Cookie Kerxton
  • Robert Kerxton
  • Zack Kerxton
  • Patty Lee, MD
  • Brandi Page, MD
  • Ramin Razavi, DMD, MS
  • Eugenia “Nina” Wendling
  • Gopal K. Bajaj, MD, MBA
  • José Dominguez
  • Carol Kanga
  • Cookie Kerxton
  • Robert Kerxton
  • Zack Kerxton
  • Patty Lee, MD
  • Brandi Page, MD
  • Ramin Razavi, DMD, MS
  • Eugenia “Nina” Wendling
Officers
  • José Dominguez
    Chairman
  • Cookie Kerxton
    Treasurer
  • Zack Kerxton
    Secretary
Advisors
  • Alan Kerxton
  • Jonathan G. Willen
  • Alyssa Fischer-Reeder