A diagnosis of cancer comes with many worries, fears and concerns, but according to Wendy Petitt, practice manager at the Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center (SVRCC), the financial burden doesn't necessarily need to be one of them.
“Cancer,” she says, “doesn’t just affect the patient. It affects their entire life and the lives of their family members. As the cancer patient navigates thru this diagnosis, there are still everyday as well as unexpected bills needing to be paid.”
It’s precisely for those types of expenses that the SVRCC Patient Resource Fund exists.
The Cancer Center Community Crusaders, known as the 4Cs for short, have played an instrumental part in contributing to this established fund. Formed three years ago, this group's fundraising efforts are helping to ease the financial burden experienced by individuals and their families coping with cancer in our community.
“As a survivor myself,” says Joanne Holden, a co-chair of the 4Cs, “I’m very familiar with the stress of dealing with cancer. The fund is intended to alleviate some of the stress by helping with bills and expenses both big and small.”
Over the past several years the fund has provided support to individuals who need help with expenses ranging from groceries and schools supplies to heating bills and medications.
According to Petitt, “The volunteers that make up the 4Cs have done an absolutely amazing job raising money in our community.”
Holden believes “It’s often pride that keeps patients, family members and caregivers from raising their hands. Most often we learn of needs not directly from patients but from nurses and other care givers who regularly speak to patients. A good example is a woman who told her doctor she was putting off her mastectomy because she wasn't sure what would happen to her dogs while she was hospitalized. A grant covering the cost of dog sitting was given from the fund. It was the last step to her getting the care she truly needed.”
Since its inception, the 4Cs have raised over $150,000 and provided financial assistance directly to more than 200 individuals in the community. In fact, the 4Cs was specifically formed to ensure that funds raised for fighting cancer stayed in the community.
Holden explains, “There are a lot of good organizations raising money to fight cancer and for years I, and many other 4C members, worked very hard to raise money every year. But then we realized that very little of the money raised actually staying in the community to address the real needs of people dealing with cancer here. That’s when we decided to create a new group.”
With the full support of the hospital administration, the 4Cs was formed and has many volunteer members organized into crews that individually and collectively take on fundraising efforts of varying scales and nature.
“It’s very grassroots,” says Holden. “There’s a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and personal investment behind what we do. Everyone’s been touched by cancer in some way and that fuels every effort.”
Adding to the success of the volunteers is the generosity of local businesses. Even businesses that aren’t being directly asked for assistance are getting into the 4C act.
“Recently we were contacted by the organizers of a golf tournament to say they learned of what we do and that they would be now donating monies raised from their annual tournament to the fund,” says Petitt. “In many ways, the caring is contagious.”
While the 4Cs holds raffles, auctions, bingo nights, and bake sales throughout the year, their biggest fundraising endeavors include the annual Cabin Fever Dance held in February and a Day of Celebration event held in June. Timed to coincide with the National Cancer Survivor Day event held at the hospital, this year’s Day of Celebration event raised more than $40,000.
Both Petitt and Holden agree that the top priority for the organization is making sure that individuals in need of assistance are aware help is only a phone call away. The fund assists cancer patients in Bennington and Windham Counties in Vermont, eastern Rensselaer and Washington Counties in New York, and northern Berkshire County in Massachusetts.
Individuals looking to learn more about receiving financial assistance for themselves or a loved one should contact Carson Thurber at Southwestern Vermont Healthcare at 802-447-5488. Thos interested in joining the group should attend the 2017 Launch Event 10 a.m. - noon Saturday, October 22 at the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Employee Cafeteria.