Strumming up awareness


Most Mummers clubs are about much more than New Year’s Day. Many members spend the other 364 days of the year participating in various events for charity.

Pat Goslin, a banjo player for the All-American String Band, recently found a cause she felt compelled to shine the Mummers’ sequined spotlight on.

She heard about the Carolyn A. Marks Walk for the Whisper — a benefit for ovarian cancer — through a former coworker. Goslin’s friend became a volunteer with the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition after learning a friend of hers had the disease.

After learning more, Goslin was inspired to form a string band of all-female members to promote awareness about ovarian cancer. She founded Mummers for Miracles, comprised of current and former members of the Irish-American, Durning, All-American, Hegeman and Greater Overbrook string bands.

"When you start talking this up, you don’t realize how many women are affected with this disease until you mention this, and someone says, ‘Oh, I know someone who has that,’" Goslin notes. "There are a lot of women’s health issues today and we all have a duty to get involved and get the word out. Don’t ignore your health; get regular checkups."

Victoria Wolodzko, spokesperson for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition-Philadelphia Division (NOCC), echoes Goslin’s advice.

Breast cancer might command more attention as the number-two killer of women, ranking only behind heart disease, according to the American Cancer Society, but ovarian cancer is equally devastating. It’s the fifth leading cause of all cancer deaths and each year, 24,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. An astounding half will die, thereby making ovarian cancer the deadliest of all forms, notes Wolodzko.

Because the disease presents with few early symptoms, it is usually detected late.

"A lot of times women are not educated enough to present those symptoms.

If you’re feeling bloated, tired or gaining weight, you don’t think to tell your OB-GYN," Wolodzko says. "It doesn’t mean you have [ovarian cancer], but by presenting those symptoms to your doctor, he or she can order the proper tests or advise a course of action."

Yet, treatment and detection for breast cancer far exceed screenings for ovarian cancer, she says. A blood test called the CA125 can be used to monitor high-risk women, but the test is unreliable in early detection because blood levels are often normal during the early stages of the disease, and can be thrown off by harmless fibroids, cysts or other conditions.

Women should listen to their bodies and know what is normal and what is not, Wolodzko says. Family history of the disease is also something to consider.

Goslin hopes her group’s participation at Sunday’s Fifth Annual Carolyn A. Marks Walk for the Whisper will help educate women about ovarian cancer.

"It’s very scary. It’s a silent disease," she says. "You can be walking around with it and not know you have it."

The walk, sponsored by the NOCC, begins along Kelly Drive at 1 p.m. Check-in is at 11 a.m. at Lloyd Hall (the first boathouse) on Kelly Drive.

More than 1,000 participants are expected to make strides in the fight against ovarian cancer, including former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier and Fox Ten O’Clock News co-anchor Dawn Stensland.

The word "whisper" in the walk’s title refers to the way ovarian cancer makes itself known to the victim — with subtle signs to which most women and even doctors are not tuned in, Wolodzko explains.

NOCC sponsors the 3-mile walk every year to coincide with September’s distinction as Ovarian Cancer Month.

Goslin, who is married to fellow Mummer Robert Goslin Jr. — the two met in 1991 when they were both members of Hegeman — had no problem recruiting members for Mummers for Miracles.

After contacting a representative from each band that she knew featured female players, Goslin tapped Chris Camuccio and Dawn Faunce, alto-saxophone players for All-American, to be the group’s music directors.

Camuccio, a former resident of 10th and Wolf, says she’s honored to have been selected.

"I’ve been playing for 17 years and to have someone ask you to be musical director is an honor. It means you know what you’re doing," she says.

Faunce says All-American had been wanting to do something for charity for quite some time. "This is a prime opportunity and we ran with it."

The female-friendly songs the group performs include Little Girl, Bosom Buddies and Annie from Second Street. To round out the repertoire, Don Morrissey of Avalon String Band generously offered his arrangements of One Song and Look for the Silver Lining.

Kelly Mahon, who holds the distinction of being the only female captain of a Mummers club — the Irish-American String Band — was selected as captain of Mummers for Miracles.

When Jim Mueller, president of Quaker City String Band, heard the gals needed a place to rehearse, he offered the all-male string band’s clubhouse at 1943 S. Third St.

Wolodzko attended the band’s first rehearsal.

"It was just a lot of passion and energy in the room — to come together to support a cause," she says. "They told me they have wanted to do something like this for a long time to give back and use their skills as musicians for a greater good. So our cause fit in very well."

Goslin has discovered that men, many of whom have lost family members to women’s cancers, can be just as passionate about fighting the disease. Despite her decision to keep the event "girls only," she has been besieged by requests from male Mummers to participate in Sunday’s walk. One such plea came from a Quaker City String Band player who lost his wife to ovarian cancer; the woman left behind 11 children.

Goslin says she will be gratified "even if we make a difference in one life."

"A woman may come out and say, ‘Let’s see the Lady Mummers,’ and learn a little bit more about ovarian cancer. Then we did a good thing."

To find out more about ovarian cancer and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, go to