The steep medical costs awaiting a cancer patient are well documented.
Less examined, though, are the menacing accumulations of day-to-day expenses — gas for the car, utility bills, groceries, kids’ clothes, home repair — whose demands take no notice of a person’s potentially terminal diagnosis or the fact that her mind, instead of fretting about an overdue bill, might now be vibrating with the pangs of a deeper worry.
A local volunteer organization, Wings of Warriors Cancer Foundation, understands this distress and is pledging its help. Formed in September, the foundation seeks to “aid cancer patients in Allen County that are in need of financial assistance.”
“We just need to know who needs help,” said Carla Capper, the group’s chairman. “We have a form they can fill in with their name, what type of cancer they have, what they’re going through, and what help they need.”
“And it doesn’t have to be the person who has cancer,” Wings’ secretary, Jessica Oswald, pointed out. “A lot of them don’t want to ask for help. But a friend will say ‘Hey, they can’t pay for their kids’ lunches’ or maybe they need a gas card, pretty much anything to lessen the stress on that person.”
Oswald recalled a story she’d heard from a member of Friends for Life — an analogous aid group based in Yates Center — in which a woman who, in traveling to and from the treatment clinic each week, had, over time, worn the tires on her car bald. The group bought the woman new tires.
“All of this extra stuff just wears you down,” said Capper. “You can’t function the way you would normally function. Things slip. You’ve still got a cable bill and the utility bill and all of this. And so, for us, we want to be able to help them keep their day-to-day life going.”
The organization has been recognized as a 501(c)(3) and operates, according to Capper, under the umbrella of the Allen County Community Foundation.
The funds for the charity come from local donations and proceeds garnered from the sale of custom T-shirts, which sell for $20 apiece. None of the organizers receive wages; all of the money goes to local patients actively seeking treatment for cancer.
Individuals and businesses wishing to sponsor Wings of Warriors — and have their names appear on the backs of the group’s briskly selling shirts — are invited to pledge $100 a year. From Audacious Boutique to Ulrich Furniture, O’Malley Equipment to O’Shaughnessy Liquor, “the community turnout has been awesome,” said Capper.
IT WAS BRENDA Holloway who, three years ago, after the death of her sister, Patricia Patterson, launched a nascent version of this group in the form of a Relay for Life team — the signature fundraising program of the American Cancer Society — called “Patty’s Posse.”
“But I felt Relay for Life didn’t give enough money back to the county. All their money goes toward their wages and, I guess, research” — a complaint that is sometimes echoed nationally — “and so after doing it for three years, I felt we needed to do something for the people here, for the people with cancer in Allen County.”
“Everyone that’s involved with this group has been touched by cancer,” said Capper. “Our daughter had cancer; my father-in-law passed away, my sister-in-law passed away with cancer.”
In fact, Holloway’s sister and Capper’s sister-in-law were close friends.
It’s worth remembering their names, since the two women, in death, have given stimulus to this organization, which, after weeks spent readying its affairs, is now poised to do good work. Patricia ‘Patty’ Patterson, of rural Iola, died Nov. 28, 2011, at the age of 48. The next year, her friend Teresa Kay Cook, 51, also of Iola, passed away.
Their friendship drew nearer as their respective cancers advanced. Coincidentally, both women ran their own local day-cares, both married their husbands in the spring of 1988, and both died of breast cancer
“They had shirts that said ‘Breast Buddies,’” said Holloway, currently Wings’ vice-chairman.
She recalls the community fundraisers she and her friends organized while her sister was dying — enchilada dinners, garage sales. “We made just beaucoup amounts of money to pay for her care.”
“That’s right,” added Capper, “around here everyone is willing to help.” She remembers when her own teenage daughter received the diagnosis. “This community really rallied around us. Now we want to give back.”
In honor of World Cancer Day, Wings of Warriors will be hosting an event at Sam and Louie’s, on Wednesday, beginning at 4 p.m. The public is invited. If you have questions about donating to the group, or wish to purchase a T-shirt, or would like to submit a candidate for financial aid, call 620-228-7146 or visit the Wings of Warriors Facebook page for more information.