Rower Sara Bilimoria Fights On in the Summer Sun|
Aug. 5, 2014
For junior rower Sara Bilimoria, the off-season has been anything but "off."
After helping push the Women of Troy to a 10th place finish at the NCAA Rowing Championships, Bilimoria boarded a plane to Europe where she immersed herself in Spanish culture for a month as part of her USC major.
But upon returning to her hometown just north of Chicago, Bilimoria refused to settle into a summer "break." Instead, she accepted an unpaid internship at Skin of Steel (SOS), a non-profit organization focused on supporting melanoma research as well as sun safety awareness. Committing to an average of 15 hours each week, Bilimoria served as the College Campaign Coordinator.
Bilimoria has been involved with the community outreach efforts of SOS since high school. Through volunteering, her eyes were opened to the startling reality of skin cancer in young Americans, particularly those with increased sun exposure, such as rowers. Melanoma, she found, is the second most prevalent type of cancer for individuals under thirty.
"As Trojans, my teammates and I value our youth, our athleticism, our time outside, and our sport of rowing," said Bilimoria. "But as young adults that spend extended amounts of time in the sun, we are part of the target demographic for melanoma."
Believing in the power of awareness, the junior starboard rower dedicated her summer to educating youth on the importance of skin protection. But unsurprisingly, Bilimoria will not stop working when the fall season kicks into gear.
"We are planning to use this season, and hopefully future seasons, to channel our hard work toward this cause," she said, referring to a new campaign her teammates have named Meters for Melanoma Tissue Bank.
This year, Bilimoria and the USC Rowing team will seek donations based on the number of kilometers they race in competition. The funds will be donated to help SOS begin the first Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium (MTBC). A tissue bank does not yet exist for melanoma, but is a crucial step toward the development of treatments for cancer patients.
And of course, Bilimoria's commitment will extend beyond USC. Her work with SOS has inspired the athlete to pursue a career as a doctor.
"One of the reasons I came to USC was to be surrounded by like-minded people, with service being a core principle of the Trojan Family," said Bilimoria. "One person can have a huge impact, you just have to surround yourself with the right community to affect change."
Skin of Steel works to raise awareness about melanoma, the fastest growing cancer in the world. The organization's primary project is to develop a Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium to further research cures for this widespread cancer. For more information, visit SkinOfSteel.org.
To support USC Rowing's Meters for Melanoma Tissue Bank, contact Matt Ackels at firstname.lastname@example.org.