Omaha’s Inaugural Hope in the Heartland Gala to Benefit American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is excited to announce that its inaugural Hope in the Heartland Gala will take place on Friday, July 27, 2012 at Stinson Park in Omaha’s historic Aksarben area.  Guests will have the opportunity to experience and celebrate the history of Stinson Park at Aksarben Village with a night at the races.  The metro area’s community leaders can wear their best derby attire, hats are welcomed, sip on a mint julep, play fun midway games, and enjoy great entertainment to help make a difference in the lives of those facing a cancer diagnosis here in Omaha.

“We in the Omaha community have the unique opportunity to help the American Cancer Society save lives from cancer through support and involvement with the Hope in the Heartland Gala,” commented Bryan Slone, event chair for the 2012 gala.  “Come enjoy fabulous cuisine, great entertainment, fun midway games, live and silent auctions, and more, while we support our local chapter of the American Cancer Society and help them impact patients here in our community.” 

“Hope in the Heartland is truly about the Omaha community coming together to achieve one goal, the day when no one has to hear the words “You have cancer,” says Slone.  The programs and services the ACS provides to the community are vital to helping us celebrate a world with more birthdays.”

Doors will open at 6:30 pm for this one-of-a-kind event that will feature simulcast horse racing, a wine tasting, a horseshoe of roses and so much more.  A silent auction will begin the evening with a live auction starting at 8:30 pm. Guests will then be able to dance the night away with entertainment by local band, Finest Hour. 

The Hope in the Heartland Committee would like to thank our major sponsors thus far for making this fun-filled event possible: Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center, Travel & Transport, Union Pacific, CS & Marilyn Johnson, Bryan & Leslie Slone, Omaha World Herald, Bank of the West, ConAgra Foods & ConAgra Foods Foundation, Deloitte, First National Bank of Omaha, HDR, Inc., T.D. Ameritrade, Wells Fargo Bank, and Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.

Tickets for the 2012 Hope in the Heartland Gala are $150 per person or $2,500 per table and can be purchased online at  For more information, contact the American Cancer Society at 402-393-0764.

For more information about the Hope in the Heartland Gala and other American Cancer Society programs, call 1-800-227-2345 or visit or


Lincoln’s Hope Gala Raises Over $50,000

Lincoln’s Hope Gala raised over $50,000 for the American Cancer Society’s lifesaving work Saturday night at the Nebraska Champions Club.  Focusing on providing a lively, fun-filled atmosphere, the 2012 Hope Gala brought nearly 200 people from around the area together for a night of unforgettable entertainment while sharing in giving to the American Cancer Society’s fight against cancer.

The Hope Gala began at 6:30pm with midway games and a silent auction followed by cuisine stations hosted by Chez Hay.  Later in the evening, a live auction took place which featured items such as all-inclusive trip packages to Las Vegas, California and Kansas City as well as a Date Night package that allowed two guests to enjoy all Lincoln has to offer in first-class style.  The evening concluded with entertainment from the popular local band Hi-Fi Hangover.  VIP patrons took part in an early cocktail reception and tours of the University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium. 

2012 Hope Gala co-chairs, Sara Jane Thomsen and Jessica Erstad

“The Hope Gala was a huge success,” commented Sara Jane Thomsen, co-chair of the event.  “A good time was had by all while raising money to create hope for people fighting cancer.”

For more information about the Hope Gala and other American Cancer Society programs, call 1-800-227-2345 or visit or

For more photos of the event, go to our Facebook page:

Lincoln Woman Honors Father by Fighting Cancer Through American Cancer Society Hope Gala

From the time her father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in March of 2004 through her father’s death five years later, Sara Jane Thomsen got to know firsthand the pain that cancer can bring to the friends and family of those who go through it.  She has seen the roller coaster ride of being diagnosed, being given a clean bill of health, being diagnosed with a new type of cancer, going into remission and having a reoccurrence.  Today, she is fighting back trying to make sure that no one else has to experience what she and her family went through by working with a one-of-a-kind event to benefit the American Cancer Society.

After his initial diagnosis, Loren “Butch” Schnittgrund had surgery to remove his esophagus.  Following the procedure, the doctors gave him a clean bill of health.  Even though doctors had told him that he probably wouldn’t be able to experience his love for running due to treatments and lack of energy, he went on to train and run the Lincoln Half Marathon.  In March of 2006, he was diagnosed with throat cancer and after rounds of radiation and chemo, the doctors again told him he was in remission.  In December of 2007, they found a spot on his lung.  They were told it was a reoccurrence of the esophageal cancer.

Sara had been living in California with her family and moved back to Nebraska with her two small boys while her husband finished his project in California to be with her Dad after his reoccurrence.  In 2008, Sara was pregnant with her third child and took her dad with her to her doctor appointments so he could see the ultrasounds and see his grandbaby. 

“My daughter was born in 2008 and we decided to name her Lauren after my dad’s name Loren,” said Thomsen.  “When he came up to the hospital to see her, he asked me if I had given his little granddaughter a name yet.  When I told him, I will never forget the look on his face.”

The rest of 2008 was up and down and in April of 2009 Butch took a turn for the worse.  On April 14th, Sara had written a card to her dad and decided to give it to him.

“In it I told him all of my feelings and love and respect and sadness.  I promised to keep his memory alive with my kids!  I promised they would never forget him.”

The next day, her dad slipped into unconsciousness and he passed away on April 19th.  That day marked one of the saddest moments in Sara’s life but it was also one of the best because she knew he was no longer in pain.  Her father’s journey through cancer is one that too many cancer patients face today and a journey the American Cancer Society is trying to eliminate by giving more people more birthdays.

“I chose to become involved with the American Cancer Society because of my story,” said Thomsen.  “I want to help fight back and help others facing cancer so that they don’t have to go through what my Dad and our family went through.”

This year, Sara will co-chair the Lincoln Hope Gala on March 24th at the Nebraska Champions Club in Lincoln.  Tickets for this one-of-a-kind event are $75 per person and can be purchased online at  VIP admission may be purchased for $125, while VIP tables are available for $1,000.  Corporate tables that include company recognition in the event program are also available for $1,250.