Five years ago, Leonard Anderson of York received one of the worst surprises of his life. The lump he recently noticed was, in fact, throat and mouth cancer. He was now in a literal fight for his life.
One of the places the retired John Deere salesman sought treatment from was the Columbus Cancer CARE (Community, Access, Resources, Education) and its foundation. Through its care, Anderson's cancer as of today is currently in remission.
“They do a terrific job,” Anderson said. “Life saving, and voice saving.”
The Columbus based nonprofit organization hosted its fourth annual Blue Jean Benefit on Thursday at the American Legion post in Columbus. Dr. Joan Keit, medical director of the organization and a member of the foundation’s Board of Directors, said last year the dinner and auction raised $70,000 for the foundation. She said that the organization is thrifty with all of its funding and zero percent of funds go toward administrative salaries.
“They’re donating to a really good cause with a really good mission and we’re very excellent stewards of our resources,” she said. “Money’s going to stay here. It’s helping their friends and neighbors, and that’s a really good thing.”
Currently, the foundation has offered local cancer patients 856 free rides to and from appointments, 67 nights of free lodging at the Days Inn and Suites in Columbus, 77 free wigs, 450 free blankets and 160 free gas cards.
Anderson said that because he lives 55 miles away from the cancer center, the gas cards were of great help to him.
“You know this can be a real struggle. Cancer’s not picking, it picks anybody. Rich, poor, in the middle, and actually, having cancer kind of puts you on the poor side because there is a lot of expenses,” he said.
The 150 seats at the dinner this year sold out just two weeks before the event, which Keit said was a new record. One of the event’s volunteers was Ashley Vollbracht of Colorado. She happened to be in the area visiting family and decided to help out at the event. She said her mother, Lynn Vollbracht, has helped volunteer at the event in the past and that she wanted to do her part to help the community she grew up in.
“I think it’s great, I love how all the proceeds stay with in the community,” she said about the money raised for the foundation. “My mom is a cancer survivor, six years in remission, so any way that I can support her and the community I grew up in, I’d love to do it.”
Keit said the highlight of the evening was the “Prayer in the Air” balloon send off. Guests could purchase balloons which had lights inside of them. They then wrote the name of a loved one who passed away due to cancer on the balloon. At the events end, those participating gathered to say a prayer and release them.
She said that watching 300 balloons go off into the night sky was quite the spectacle and was a great way to honor those who had passed away.
“We’re here to recognize and celebrate the people in our lives who have had cancer," she said. "So we’re going recognize people who actively have cancer or are maybe cancer survivors and have a moment to remember those who we have lost to cancer. We’re going to honor the caregivers, because they’re the unsung heroes.”
Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at Eric.Schucht@lee.net.