An all-volunteer organization raising $100,000 in 11 years is an impressive feat, especially for a small town like Abilene.
This organization, Hope Lives, uses the money to save lives by paying for mammograms for Dickinson County women who do not have health insurance.
“It has definitely saved lives,” said Kim Stivers, Memorial Health System’s director of community affairs.
From 2012 to June 2019, 142 women have taken advantage of the program, Stivers said. Some of them were found to have cancer.
Early detection is the best way to treat breast cancer, said Rhonda Schmid, director of radiology at Memorial Hospital. One in eight women will develop breast cancer in this country.
All women have to do is call the hospital and ask for the scheduling department. If women qualify for free mammograms, the department will walk them through the process, Stivers said.
Women will need a doctor’s referral, but if they don’t have a doctor, the hospital will arrange for a doctor’s order, as well, under the program.
Hope Lives recently donated $13,000 to the hospital to pay for the free mammograms. At the same time, it donated $7,000 to the Elsie Brooks Foundation which helps people with cancer pay for incidental expenses that insurance doesn’t cover.
$20,000 this year
“The other great thing is not only have we raised over $100,000, this year we were able to give $20,000,” Brenda Holm said. “For a total of 20 grand, that’s a lot for a small community like ours.”
More than 300 people bought tickets for the fundraiser Oct. 9 at Sterl Hall, enjoying a light dinner, bidding on auction items and buying raffle tickets.
About 123 individuals and businesses donated something we could use, Brenda said: auction and raffle items, desserts, cash.
Brenda has been spearheading the event since it started in 2008, with a dedicated committee, including Diane Wyatt, Ranae Veal, Deb Foltz and Kylie Berger Lee.
“When (her husband) Tim and I talked about this 11 years ago, there was some talk about breast cancer awareness,” said Brenda. “We were starting to know women who are being diagnosed and are fighting breast cancer.”
They also saw people struggling in the Great Recession.
It started with a conversation between themselves, she said, then grew from there about 10 times over.
The first Hope Lives breast cancer fundraiser event was about 35 people sitting on folding chairs in the Holm Automotive showroom, said Tim Holm. It raised about $2,000, which went to upgrade mammography equipment at Memorial Hospital.
The Holms’ concern was keeping this a community project, because in so many of those events, the money gets sent away.
“We didn’t want to send it national,” Tim said.
“By making it local and talking with the hospital, people are so happy to help their neighbors and their own community,” Brenda said. “I think that’s been a large part of the passion of the supporters and donors.”
Many donors have a location connection, individuals and businesses. Tim also gets donations from his vendors, so items come from as far away as Utah, Kansas City and Chicago, courtesy of Cody Whitehair.
It’s not hard to get donations, Tim said.
“It’s a really worthwhile initiative, it’s easy to get behind,” he said. “Let’s face it. We all have mothers. We all have grandmothers, may have sisters, friends, wives, daughters. You don’t have to look very far to find somebody who’s been affected by breast cancer.”
In the beginning, the money went to upgrade mammography machines.
“At that point, we were trying to help buy some radiology equipment, that’s where the money was slated to go,” Tim said.
The hospital upgraded equipment again just a year ago with a 3D mammography machine that is 40 percent more effective at detecting cancer, Schmid said. For women who’ve had mammograms previously, it can also seem a little more comfortable.
“We decided that since they had the equipment — the best defense against breast cancer is early detection — how do you get early detection if you don’t have insurance and are unable to pay?” Tim said. “We thought that would be a good way to have a positive impact on people who might have been left behind.”
It has a positive effect on everybody.
“Hope Lives really brought a lot of people in who attended” for their mammograms, Schmid said. “It puts the word out.”
Contact Jean Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org.