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COCA History

Patrice Hauptman, COCA's Executive Director, would love to share our hopes and dreams for COCA in the coming year with you. Feel free to contact her to discuss in detail at or her cell at 303-419-3200.


COCA's Carol's Wish Financial and Insurance Navigation program saved survivors and thier families over $2 Million in 2022. 

Support groups for ALL gynecologic cancers (ovarian, uterine/endometrial, cervical, vulvar) are held both virtually and in person, providing vital information and support to survivors throughout Colorado. 


Nicki's Circle Support Groups continue to meet virtually. 

COCA's Carol's Wish Financial and Insurance Navigation program provides assistance to women with ALL gynecologic cancers in Colorado. 

Survivor Karen Boylan became COCA's sixth Board President.


All Nicki's Circle Support Groups moved to a virtual format due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

COCA added weekly support groups that helped survivors and their loved ones cope with the stress, emotions and uncertainty of the pandemic.

Jodi's Race was held virtually in 2020 year and exceeded expectations with about 1,500 participants!

Former Denver Bronco and radio personality Tyler Polumbus, cycled 100 miles around Empower Field at Mile High to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and support COCA's important work. His mother, Nancy Polumbus, had been a long time Jodi's Race participant. 

COCA reached a milestone of giving out over $500,000 since the inception of the COCA Cares Program.


COCA partnered with Hadassah to bring more direct education and testing to Denver's Jewish community to educate people about their potential high risk of inheriting a BRCA mutation. Ashkenazi Jews are 10X more likely to carry a BRCA mutation than the general public.

The 10th Annual Jodi's Race for Awareness was held at Denver City Park.


In response to the high cost of cancer care, and a deep commitment to quality care for all women regardless of socio-economic background, a pilot program named in honor and memory of Carol Dauer was initiated. Carol's Wish Financial Navigation Program works to reduce out of pocket costs for patients by improving insurance coverage, securing access to free drugs, co-pay assistance, premium assistance and more.

Board Director, Sue Hester, became the fifth president of the board. Sue is a long-time participant in Nicki's Circle Central and also the organizer of the impressive Jodi's Race Team, "Team Sue."


COCA continues to expand program offerings to women throughout Colorado.

Another successful "September Awareness" effort resulted in interviews at metro Denver TV stations as well as in Grand Junction, spreading the word about the symptoms and risk factors of ovarian cancer. 


COCA focused on offering a more comprehensive educational program and new educational efforts to reach women at high risk for Ovarian Cancer.


Executive Director Patrice Hauptman was hired to guide COCA. 

COCA programs continued to expand with the addition of the Peer-To-Peer Mentor Program.


The 5th Annual Jodi's Race for Awareness was a great success with over 3,000 in attendance and over $170,000 netted to support COCA programs.

The first Annual Teal Gala was held in September 2014 with all proceeds benefiting the COCA Cares Financial Assistance program. Generous donors enable COCA that eliminated the wait list for COCA Cares assistance!


COCA programs continued to thrive and grow. Nicki's Circle continues to expand.

The COCA Cares Financial Assistance program grew to assist more women, and the Comfort Kit program expanded to serve over 100 newly diagnosed women in 2013.

COCA's Director of Programs and "founding mother", Susan Hess, developed COCA's first Ovarian Cancer Resource Guide; 50+ pages of information and resources for newly diagnosed women.


A successful day-long Summit on ovarian cancer was held in September at the University of Denver featuring national speakers and a luncheon for over 100 participants.

The COCA Cares Financial Assistance Program began providing $500/month grants to qualified applicants.

The Cheryl Shackelford Foundation dissolved and gifted their assets to the COCA Cares program. Their Comfort Kit program was taken over by COCA.


With an expanded budget, Pep Torres moved the organization forward as the new ED.

A Nicki’s Circle Tele-Support Group was added, to reach women throughout the State of Colorado, and Nicki’s Circle South was added at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, south of Denver.

A survivor assistance program for women in treatment for ovarian cancer was developed with help from the breast cancer organization, Sense of Security. The COCA Cares Financial Assistance Program was approved by the Board of Directors, and Susan Hess was hired as the Director of Programs. 

An “Ovarian Cancer Task Force (OCTF)” was assembled and hosted by COCA, to pull together the various ovarian cancer non-profit groups operating in the Denver area, including The HERA Foundation, The Kathleen Bennett Foundation, the Cheryl Shackelford Foundation, and the Sue DiNapoli Foundation (now Sue's Gift). The OCTF became an official task force of the Colorado Cancer Coalition (CCC).

The Kathleen Bennett Foundation dissolved and joined efforts with COCA.


The Ovarian Cancer Race for Awareness at City Park exceeded all expectations with 1,700 people in attendance and over $150,000 raised in donations. Organizer Jodi Brammeier passed away a month after the race. The event was renamed Jodi’s Race in her honor.

Mary Phillips became the fourth President of the Board.

Late in the year, Lucy Trujillo resigned as Executive Director due to complications from ovarian cancer.

Guadalupe (Pep) Torres was hired as the new Executive Director; Pep had lost her mother to ovarian cancer.

Nicki’s Circle support groups continued to expand.


In 2009, Nancy Zurbuch became COCA’s third President of the Board. 

At a Board meeting in early 2009, preparations began to host the first Ovarian Cancer Race for Awareness to be held in Denver City Park on June 5th, 2010. Led and organized by ovarian cancer survivor Jodi Brammeier, who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008 at age 41. Since there was no screening test for ovarian cancer, she made it her mission to raise awareness of the risk factors and symptoms through a 5K Race/Walk. Her hope was for other women to find their cancer early when odds of survival are much better.  


1st "March to the Capitol” September awareness event.

Nicki’s Circle continued at St. John’s Cathedral  & Swedish Medical Center, and the STS program continued to expand.

In December 2008, Lucy Trujillo, COCA’s first Executive Director was hired. Lucy began advancing COCA’s effectiveness through Board development and organization.


In 2007, Darice Bayer became the second President of the Board. In addition to creating events to help fund COCA, Darice developed the “March to the Capitol” September awareness events that began the following year.

Nicki’s Circle was offered at St. John’s Cathedral and Swedish Medical Center.

The STS program continued to be developed at Univ. of Colorado Medical School.


In 2006, a proposal was written to the Colorado Cancer Coalition and a $9,000 grant was received which was used to: increase the number of support groups to additional locations, develop the website, print materials for five community health events including the 9Health Fairs, and to bring OCNA’s national “Survivors Teaching Students" (STS) training program to Denver.

Training local survivors for this program was vital in COCA’s subsequently setting up the STS program at the University of Colorado Medical School.


The Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance (COCA) was created when an independent ovarian cancer support group, comprised of several determined ovarian cancer survivors and the group's facilitator decided to form a non-profit organization to secure continued support and provide awareness and education about ovarian cancer to the community. Papers were submitted for non-profit business incorporation to the Secretary of State in Denver, Colorado on June 16, 2005.

Jeana Capel-Jones presided as first President of the Board of Directors. 

This original support group became COCA. The group received a significant memorial donation from Jim Griesemer and the family of Nicki Stoner to ensure the support group, so important to Nicki, continued its services. The support group was renamed Nicki’s Circle Support Group in her honor (a suggestion made by Sean Patrick of the HERA Foundation). Susan Hess, MA, LPC, one of COCA's founders, and the original group's facilitator, continued to facilitate the support group.


  • Nicki of Nicki’s Circle
    Nicki of Nicki’s Circle

    Nicki Stoner at QuaLife Garden, 2003

    Nicki Stoner, a devoted wife, mother and successful professional was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in January, 2002. Over the next several years she was actively involved in the ovarian cancer support group that met at QuaLife Wellness Community in Denver. Nicki found the group to be of great value and was committed to its continuation and success. After Nicki passed away, her husband Jim Griesemer and daughter Katie Fox established an endowment in her honor to help fund the group’s operation. When QuaLife closed, the endowment was transferred to the newly-formed COCA, and the support group was named Nicki’s Circle. Under the direction of COCA, Nicki’s Circle has significantly expanded its outreach and the number of women it serves.

COCA Board Presidents

  • 2005-2007 Board President – Jeana Capel-Jones
  • 2007-2008 Board President – Darice Bayer
  • 2008-2010 Board President – Nancy Zurbuch (Wilson)
  • 2010-2018 Board President – Mary Phillips
  • 2018-Present Board President - Sue Hester