Breast Cancer Fund Raising Events Suffer Owing To COVID-19: The novel coronavirus poses challenges to anyone raising money, but two area foundations dedicated to helping people with breast cancer are continuing to provide the assistance they can.
The Joplin-based HOPE 4 You Breast Cancer Foundation focuses on raising money for hospitals to provide free mammograms or breast exams to people who suspect they might have the devastating disease.
The Springfield-based Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks focuses on helping families in which someone has a breast cancer diagnosis with assistance to pay essential bills while their loved one receives treatment.
Representatives of both foundations say the pandemic has forced the cancellation or downsizing of their biggest fundraising events, but they’re continuing to give help.
“We have canceled our Race 4 HOPE, and we have not held an in-person board meeting since February, but we’re still communicating through email and we’re being very careful,” HOPE 4 You board President Sharon Clark said.
“We took a hit this year, but a lot of people did. We were still able to get some money out to the hospitals this year, and we are thankful for that.”
“Fundraising has been quite a challenge, just like in every other nonprofit,” said Kristi Seibert, outreach director for the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks.
“In July, that’s when we hold our big Pink Ribbon Gala, but that had to be canceled. We have rescheduled it for Oct. 30, and I’m in the process of trying to get responses from those who have sponsored it to see where we are as far as people coming together.
It may be a very small gathering, (but) we hope to have something.”
HOPE 4 You
HOPE 4 You launched in 2007 when Dr. Walter Dandridge, who was director of the Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center at St. John’s Regional Medical Center at the time, said he wanted to find a way to educate women about the importance of early detection of breast cancer and help them pay to get that diagnosis.
“HOPE” is an acronym for the goals of the foundation — Help, Outreach, Prevent and Educate.
Dandridge worked with area business leaders to create the foundation that has since given more than $500,000 to provide mammograms to thousands of people in the counties it covers.
“We’re all volunteers; we don’t have a paid staff that can help diagnose or determine if a woman has breast cancer,” Clark said.
“We give our money to the hospitals, and a woman can apply to Mercy Joplin or Freeman or any of the other hospitals if she doesn’t have insurance or she’s a single parent.”
Clark said early detection is the key, but it does no good if a woman detects a lump in her breast but has to choose between getting help for herself or feeding her children.
A survivor of two kinds of cancer, including breast cancer, Clark said that’s a choice some women have to make.
“When my breast cancer was discovered, you didn’t tell people about it. It was before (first lady) Betty Ford went public with her struggle with breast cancer,” she said.
“Now people talk about it. The word is out that there’s all kinds of help out there — you just have to ask for it.”
The foundation’s pink ribbon bagel campaign in conjunction with Panera Bread is still on, and area high school athletic teams are holding fundraisers, providing money that was needed after the cancellation of the Race 4 HOPE.
That’s allowed the group to make donations to several area hospitals.
“If someone wants to do some kind of fundraiser to help us, please reach out to our organization,” Clark said.
“Our contact information is on the website, hope4youbcf.org. You can make a donation online if you want to help. And our money stays local.”
Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks
The Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks was founded in 2000 after Mary Beth O’Reilly, of the auto parts family, befriended a newcomer to Springfield, Kristen O’Brien Hardy, soon after Hardy was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27.
Hardy died in 1998 at 31, and her friends wanted to donate money to a foundation to help others dealing with the cancer and wanted the money to stay local.
At that time, there was no foundation like that in the region, so the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks was incorporated.
Seibert said the foundation’s financial assistance program takes up the majority of its time and money these days.
Every month, a client assistance committee meets and reviews applications for assistance by families in which a member has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Once approved, we interview that patient and that family and see how we can best help them, what household bills can we help with that helps them best,” Seibert said.
“We’ll make their house payment or rent or pay their utilities. We basically hold up the household budget while the patient undergoes treatment.
There are lots of other things that can be a part of that. If there’s something wrong with their vehicle and they can’t get back and forth to treatment, we’ve done car repairs (and) we’ve paid car insurance.
We help with any kiddos they have in the house as well.”
Seibert said the group also hosts free screening events at hospitals across the area.
This year, the foundation plans to honor Glenna Wallace, the first female chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe and a breast cancer survivor, at its Pink Ribbon Gala.
A scaled-back version of the annual event is scheduled for later this month.
“I’m already very grateful, very thankful, for everyone in the community who has continued their support and their sponsorship of the gala, regardless of how we’re able to pull the event off,” Seibert said.