Skip to main content

Sacramento Oracle

Sunday on the Green Tees Off to Fund Blood Cancer Research

Apr 24, 2024 10:08AM ● By UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center News Release
2024 patient honoree Robert Mochel (right) played against his doctor Joe Tuscano in last year’s Sunday on the Green. Photo courtesy of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - The annual Sunday on the Green golf tournament is on par to reach the 10-year goal of $500,000 to support UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Golfers and non-golfers alike will team up to raise money for blood cancer research at the 10th annual Sunday on the Green golf tournament on May 5.

The benefit event at Ancil Hoffman Golf Course is expected to hit a major milestone: With monies raised this year, the Carmichael-based organizer of the event, the non-profit Better Life Foundation, is hoping to reach its goal of generating half a million dollars for blood cancer research at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The 18-hole golf tournament will offer friendly competition and fun on-course activities. More than 100 golfers are expected to register for the event, which is sponsored by the Better Life Foundation and this year’s title sponsor, California Statewide Certified Development CorporationAfter the tournament, golfers will join others at the Afternoon Patio Party, also at Ancil Hoffman Golf Course.

The event raises money not only from participating single and foursome golfers, but also from sponsorships, raffles and an auction. Proceeds will fund research conducted by Joseph Tuscano, director of the cancer center’s Stem Cell and Bone Marrow Transplantation program. 

Sunday on the Green golf tournament UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

 The annual Sunday on the Green golf tournament is on par to reach the 10-year goal of $500,000 to support UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Photo courtesy of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

Tuscano and his team hunt for novel and non-toxic therapies to treat lymphomaleukemia and other cancers, including multiple myelomalung and colorectal cancers.

Sunday on the Green was started in 2014 by Loel Heupel and his wife Nicki to raise funds for blood cancer research. Loel was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in January 2006 and then Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia in 2011.

“Loel and Nicki Heupel are passionate believers in pursuing research into non-toxic therapies for blood cancers,” Tuscano said. “They are some of the most generous and giving people I have ever met. I salute them for all they are doing to help others with cancer and to find a cure.”

In 2012, Loel underwent a successful stem cell transplant performed by Tuscano and his team. Within months of the advanced treatment transplant, Loel was back golfing, cycling and skiing and feeling grateful for the care he received at the cancer center.

“During the course of my cancer treatment, I was the beneficiary of the dedication, compassion, and selfless service of Dr. Tuscano,” Loel said. “Creating a non-profit, fundraising foundation to support his team’s blood cancer research was a way to show gratitude for the positive impact he has had on so many patients' lives."

Meet the Sunday on the Green honoree for 2024

Sunday on the Green annually honors a patient who has benefited from blood cancer research. This year, the recipient is Vietnam War veteran Robert Mochel of West Sacramento.

“I’m not used to being in the spotlight,” said Mochel, who was nicknamed “Mojo” during his two-year tour of duty in Vietnam. “I tell you what, though, Dr. Tuscano is fantastic and I’m pleased to help bring attention to his research. I feel a bond with him that I’ve never felt with any other doctor.”

Mochel was diagnosed in 2020 with myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood cancer that some researchers suspect may be linked to exposure to the toxic defoliant Agent Orange. During the 1970s, he was stationed with the U.S. Army in the Vietnamese province of Tây Ninh. Mochel served as a gunner in a Bell UH-1 “Huey” helicopter that routinely dropped the defoliant. That meant he was in close contact with the chemical herbicide and later became aware of its cancer risks.

A routine blood test before Mochel underwent knee surgery at Sacramento VA Medical Center in 2019 showed abnormalities, and Mochel was later referred to a hematologist. UC Davis Health partners with the Sacramento VA Medical Center to provide care. That’s where Mochel met Tuscano, who oversaw his first stem cell transplant to treat his condition in 2022.

“Unfortunately, soon after the first stem cell transplant, I came down with COVID and then RSV,” Mochel said. “My health spiraled downward. Fortunately, Dr. Tuscano lined up a second stem cell donor who was an even better match, and this last transplant went great.”

After Mochel’s second transplant in August 2023, he felt so good that he plans to play for a third time in this year’s Sunday on the Green tournament.

“Raising money for blood cancer research is so important and this is such a fun event. I’ve managed to play every year since my first stem cell transplant,” Mochel said. “I hope Sunday on the Green gets bigger every year.”

Donors are welcome to provide ongoing support to the cause. Visit the Better Life Foundation website to make a contribution.