Months before Karen Wyckoff died in 2001 at age 25, she organized a fundraiser at Como Park for people like her suffering from sarcoma -- a cancer of the body's connective tissues.

The family-friendly event has continued each summer, becoming the biggest sarcoma fundraiser in the Midwest, drawing more than 1,500 people and raising more than $90,000 last year, said her father, Peter Wyckoff of Shoreview.

Likewise, the Karen Wyckoff Rein in Sarcoma Foundation, created after her death, is now the Midwest's leading nonprofit fighting sarcoma, he said.

"If you have breast cancer or prostate cancer, there are dozens of support groups and services out there,'' said Wyckoff. "But when it comes to sarcoma, we are it in the Midwest in terms of providing support for newly diagnosed patients.''

This year's event, on July 25, offers people with this rare form of cancer -- and their families-- a chance to meet and have fun.

Sarcoma accounts for just 1 to 2 percent of adult cancers, said Wyckoff, best known as the founder of the former Minnesota Senior Federation.

"Karen was good on the Internet, and found people around the world she corresponded with,'' said Wyckoff. "But it was hard to find people locally. Today we have 300 people in Facebook and 2,000 people in our database.''

The foundation is a low-budget operation, run by Wyckoff and his wife, Sue, from their home. They raised $180,000 during the past year, donating $176,000 to the University of Minnesota's Masonic Cancer Center to find a cure and therapies for sarcoma. It also has created a 90-page guide about sarcoma that is distributed to all sarcoma patients and others at the U of M Medical Center.

Next week's gathering includes live music, food, a magician, children's activities and more. It also has a message.

"If you've got a lump, bump or bruise that does not go away and increases in size, you need to have it looked at -- and looked at again,'' Peter Wyckoff said. For more information, see

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511