The power of our voices knows no bounds. From singing world-renowned hits, to advocating for social justice causes, to standing up to cancer, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. (GMCW) showcases the dynamic voices of over 200 singers. They’ve grown into a community who will stop at nothing to provide a safe space for all who seek to be a part of it.
Just about two years ago, Thea Kano, GMCW’s artistic director, noticed a small bump on her wrist. After several scans and procedures, she was diagnosed with sarcoma, and she was set to begin her cancer treatment. Life with GMCW didn’t miss a beat for Thea as she continued to conduct and direct, occasionally with a wrap on her arm. Most chorus members were unaware of her diagnosis, and those that knew were inspired by her tenacity and grit. Thea first heard about BellRinger from a Georgetown Lombardi physician soon after “ringing the bell.” Motivated by her experience and empowered by the close-knit community around her, she knew GMCW would want to get involved. They did just that.
Thea enlisted the help of GMCW’s Tom Boeke, who was not only a close friend to her, but someone who has also seen what it’s like to have the people you love affected by this disease. Tom’s father battled prostate cancer for over 15 years before his passing, and his sister is a breast cancer survivor. This reminded him that we truly never know what the future holds, and that there is no time like the present to take action that can help save lives. Through conversations with chorus members and the BellRinger Team, GMCW has grown to become one of BellRinger’s leading teams, standing strong at 20 committed Riders.
Tom shared, “I have had both family members and close friends affected directly by cancer and understand how important treatment is for them to recover and lead a full life. Perhaps more importantly, I hope that through my involvement in BellRinger, I can have an impact on helping to find a cure for cancer.”
Although GMCW is now an integral part of the BellRinger Community, their mission does not stop at ending cancer. The group sings to inspire equality and inclusion with musical performances and education promoting justice and dignity for all. While their core values set them apart, they sure know how to maintain the energy while never forgetting the meaning of “fun”. GMCW’s rendition of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” a resounding spectacle witnessed during their Whitney show this past March, leaves you longing to have experienced it firsthand.
GMCW is making strides — figuratively and literally — to encourage the community to take part in BellRinger. From hosting group bike rides, planning fundraising events such as wine tastings and group spin classes, to so much more — they have shown that their voices cannot and will not be silenced. GMCW vocalist and 25-mile Rider Edward Oseroff has already raised close to $1,000 and like many others, knows that cancer has no power against a community of inspired people.
Ed shared, “I’m so thankful to be a part of BellRinger. I, along with each of you, have seen far too much suffering and losing far too many loved ones. I have also seen the amazing miracles that new treatments can bring about. Working together we can continue this effort and help put cancer in its place — a bad memory of the past.”
Mike DeMeo has been living in D.C. since 2010 after pursuing a graduate degree at Gallaudet University. Since then, he has become a full-time ASL/English interpreter and is a proud member of GMCW. Mike will be gearing up for the 100-mile Ride in BellRinger this fall.
Mike spoke of his uncle who he lost to cancer, “as a Rider in BellRinger, I’m looking forward to doing a physical activity I love while raising money to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer. I lost my Uncle John Geason to colon cancer in 2016 and I hope that continued research can save the lives of people like him in the future.”
As a cancer survivor for almost 30 years, John Santell appreciates the research that is so critical in discovering treatments that can save countless lives. Through his advocacy, he continues to inspire those around him to join in his efforts to raise money and awareness for BellRinger. John shared, “cancer impacts not just an individual, but all the family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances around that individual. I would not be alive today were it not for the research done in prior years. I’m grateful to be alive and want to do what I can to help those in need today and tomorrow.”
Shawn Morris is no stranger to cycling or participating in group charity rides. Over the years he has participated in more than he can count, but BellRinger reignited his drive to get back on his bike for a cause that like many others, hits close to home.
“Having done several other century rides for other charities, I had decided I was going to give it up. That is, until I heard about Bellringer and the amazing cause it supports. Like many, I’ve been personally touched by cancer so this Ride is personal for me,” Shawn shared. Shawn will be taking to the streets to Ride 100 miles in BellRinger this fall, and has already raised over $700.
GMCW, through their resounding voices, refuses to accept the status quo. They ignite a spark within our community, inspiring others to give generously in the relentless pursuit of a cancer-free world.