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In the center (copy)

Christy Rhoads, volunteer for the Columbus Cancer CARE Foundation, fits Elaine Demuth with a wig while Dr. Joan Keith, medical director of Columbus Cancer Care, looks on during a recent morning. The Foundation helps local people, including those in Colfax County, battling cancer and is having a benefit later this month.

The Clarkson community knows how to raise funds for a good cause.

Residents, spearheaded by Kathy Doernemann, raised about $20,000 for the Columbus Cancer CARE Foundation in August through The Barn event. The night, hosted in a barn-turned-event center at 2412 Road 8 in Clarkson, was full of family fun and entertainment.

“It was our fourth year doing a benefit for them, and we do it because all of the money goes to patients,” Kathy Doernemann said. “I just think they do a lot of good for our community.”

Although it has another city’s name in its title, Columbus Cancer Care since opening in 2011 has aimed to bring high-quality radiation treatments to residents of Colfax, Platte and Butler counties so that they don’t have to travel long distance.

“Access to care is really an important part of what we do,” said Dr. Joan Keit, medical director of the center.

Keit it also on the Columbus CARE Foundation Board of Directors, a nonprofit organization came about after the center’s opening to help support those battling cancer in Butler and surrounding counties. It helps with transportation by offering cancer patients rides to and from appointments, as well as providing them gas cards and hotel rooms while undergoing treatment thanks to a partnership with the Days Inn & Suites in Columbus, a resource room that features wigs and hats to choose from in addition to educational materials. It also has a Cancer Support Group that meets the first Tuesday of each month.

In the last two years, according to Keit, the CARE (Community, Access, Resources, Education) Foundation has given 170 rides to Colfax County patients. It has also handed out 19 gas cards in the community.

“We wanted to remove that boundary of limited access to care,” Keit said, noting the foundation and center have helped dozens of people from several Colfax County communities over the years. “Columbus Care Foundation is not just Columbus. It’s for surrounding communities, like those in Colfax County, as well.”

But the foundation’s support of Colfax County wouldn’t be possible without the help of local residents. Keit said the nonprofit was a direct result of people wanting to make donations to the center and recognizing the need for cancer support services in the area.

She said she’s hopeful that generosity will continue this year as the foundation gears up for its fourth annual Blue Jean Benefit, set for 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, at the American Legion Hartman Post 84, 2263 Third Ave. in Columbus.

“I hope there will be people from Colfax County who will come enjoy our event and help raise awareness,” Keit said. “It absolutely benefits their community.”

The event, which has sold out the previous three years, sees all the proceeds raised go directly back into the area to support the foundation’s efforts in helping area residents battling cancer and their families. The event will feature a social hour, as well as dinner and silent and live auctions. The auctions, according to the doctor, will work twofold. Attendees can win prizes, like trips for themselves, but also bid on items for cancer patients like gas cards.

Tickets are $35 per person or $350 per table. Keit said organizers have aimed to have reasonable prices for the event to keep with the theme of being all-inclusive.

“We didn’t want it to be something people had to buy a new outfit for. That’s why we say wear blue jeans and your best bling,” she said. “Cancer crosses all socioeconomic boundaries, so we didn’t want to exclude people who couldn’t necessarily give $100.”

The night will cap off with “Prayer in the Air” balloon release.

“It’s something really special. It’s kind of our signature thing,” Keit said.

Colored balloons with lights in them are sold that people can decorate with the name of someone who is battling cancer or in memory of a loved one who lost their fight. At the end of the night, a little ceremony is held and the balloons are released into the sky.

“It’s very moving; it’s a really nice way to end the night,” she said.

Those interested in buying tickets or a table, as well as sponsorship opportunities, can call 402-562-8666 or email cccarefoundation@gmail.com. Seating is limited, so officials said they encourage people to buy tickets in advance.

“It’s a really fun night. There’s a real mix of people,” Keit said. “It’s nice for people who have experienced cancer in some way in their lives because they start talking and sharing experiences and making connections. We really try to honor those who have experienced cancer in their lives because it is such a common illness. It’s a night to really honor that.”

Doernemann had a similar perspective about the benefit.

“It’s another good fundraiser for them and all of the money goes back to the patients. The care is more personal there," she said. "I just think Columbus Cancer Care and the Foundation serve the area well.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net

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