Helping Families At Home
● By Aimee Cormier
By Michelle Matthews Calloway | Submited Photos
October is national Breast Cancer Awareness month and during this special time the country will be awash in pink, the iconic color symbolizing breast cancer. The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention names breast cancer as the most common cancer among American women. In 2014, it is estimated that 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 62,570 new cases of noninvasive, ductal carcinoma in situ breast cancer will occur among American women. Sadly, this year 40,000 breast cancer deaths are also predicted.
When most people think of breast cancer organizations the Susan G. Komen® Foundation immediately comes to mind. Founded in 1982 by Nancy Brinker, what was once a local organization in Dallas is now a global nonprofit entity. Here in Acadiana, community leaders and volunteers are busy founding and organizing similar grassroots foundations and associations. The outreach of these local groups extends personal care, attention, monies and assistance to cancer patients right here in Acadiana – your neighbors and mine.
Join us as we salute the volunteer leaders and members of groups in our area who bring hope and help to those battling cancer. Acadiana LifeStyle encourages you to volunteer and donate to these worthy local organizations, knowing that your donations are making a difference, one person at a time.
Acadiana’s Hope For A Cure Society
P.O. Box 9578
New Iberia, La 70562
Facebook.com/acadianahope; website under construction
Founded in 2013 by Debra Savoie, Danette Guilotte and a group of friends including Kim Addie, Kim Behringer, Sherry Prince and Octavia Lynn Stevens, the mission and purpose of AHCS is to provide support and education to improve the lives and give hope to women and children who previously had or are currently suffering from cancer.
Goals of the AHCS include providing educational grants for adults and children, creating and facilitating support groups for adults and children coping with the loss of a loved one to cancer, presenting health awareness seminars, providing “comfort kits” tailored to a child’s likes and personality and developing a “home helper committee” composed of volunteers who will provide home service for cancer patients undergoing treatment.
The AHCS achieved 501(c)(3) designation in July, but members of the organization did not wait for this status before getting to work. Since its inception events and activities include hosting their first annual jeep run, providing home cooked meals to cancer patients and plate lunch fundraising events.
Red beans and rice is a cultural icon here in Acadiana, and the members of AHCS specialize in using the staple to its fullest advantage. In 2013 AHCS put on a red beans and rice plate lunch fundraising event to help with medical expenses for Dayton Boutte, now in his second year of remission for a rare blood cancer. The family had just returned to New Iberia from Tulane Medical Center, where Dayton had been in intensive care. “We’d been in New Orleans for a while and had been off work. People in the area wanted to do what they could to help us,” Boutte says. The AHCS put on the event, and did everything from cooking to advertising and selling tickets. “They raised about $2,000 for us,” says Boutte. “The amount of love and support we received from them and the community was amazing and overwhelming.”
ACHS members also participate in the Lydia Cancer Association’s annual Breast Cancer Walk, the Lazy Lounge’s annual St. Jude’s Benefit & Chili Cook-off and volunteer at Our Lady of Lourdes’ Camp Bluebird. The society held its first annual Jeep 4x4 Poker Run in April 2014 and the second is scheduled for Saturday, April 18, 2015. Their newest fundraiser, “Biking for a Cure” is tentatively scheduled for the 1st weekend in October 2015.
Book Series Benefit
Arlene Hebert, Author
5826 Johnston St.
Lafayette, La 70503
Ask Angeltales author Arlene Hebert how she got started writing children’s books and raising money for cancer patients and she will tell you it happened because she experienced a divine intervention. “My story really is a ‘God story,’ because this is something I had never dreamed of doing or intended that I would ever do,” she marvels. “I’m a registered nurse. And yet here I am, and all I can say is that it’s God’s doing.”
Hebert shares how in 1995 she paused to bow her head before a cross she kept on a metal stand on the mantle of her fireplace. In that instant, she saw three scenes with childlike angels, scenes from the children’s books she would eventually go on to write. Skeptical at first and unsure of her writing ability, she gained added writing skills from a new job requiring her to write an auditing program. She began to write the scenes she saw that fateful day in her living room and now has six books in the Angeltales series. Hebert’s books are on the Renaissance Learning Accelerated Readers List for 4th grade level reading at Louisiana schools.
Hebert says her decision to dedicate the financial proceeds from her first book, “Angels in Training: Twin Angel School” was also divinely inspired. “The words I heard were crystal clear, ‘The proceeds from your first book will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in its entirety,’” she says. The words were not audible and she had not yet completed the first book, yet Hebert was moved to obey. The first book was published in October, 2009 and by the end of that year Hebert had raised $12,000.
In addition to personally donating the proceeds from Book 1, Hebert engages the community in her fundraising efforts. Donors are asked to purchase a book for $20, which puts Book 1 in the hands of a hospitalized child. Additionally, for every 20 “likes” on her Angeltales Facebook page, a book is donated to a child. Aided by purchases and donations, to date Hebert has donated nearly $50,000 to St. Jude’s, with much of the proceeds directly benefitting children in Acadiana and the surrounding area.
Hebert is grateful for the favorable response her books have received, and looks forward to reaching a fundraising milestone by year’s end. “I’m tired of saying we’ve raised ‘nearly $50,000.’ I want us to cross the
$50,000 mark by the end of the year.” Visit angeltalesadventures.com today to make your $20 donation. You’ll place Book 1 in the hands of an appreciative child, and you will help Hebert reach her goal.
2851 Johnston St.
Lafayette, La. 70508
Founded in 1990 as a special project of Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, Camp Bluebird offers a unique experience for adult cancer survivors in the Acadiana community. Camp attendees do not have to be a patient of Our Lady of Lourdes in order to attend.
The 3-day, 2-night camp is held at Lake Fausse Point State Park in October and April each year. With the lush Louisiana scenery and the beauty of nature as a backdrop, campers are provided with a supportive, creative, inspirational and educational atmosphere. One of the purposes of the camp is to provide opportunities for healing of the mind and spirit. “It’s a time when they can pull away and reflect,” says Camp Director Kristy Cossich. “They celebrate life and share experiences. They provide the kind of support to one another that no one else can.”
Recreational activities and creative outlets through music, games, arts and crafts is a central feature. Camp staff including nurses, health care professionals, pastoral care associates and community volunteers freely give of their time to provide another arm of support to campers. Camp Bluebird draws volunteers who are members of a number of surrounding organizations with a similar mission including Acadiana’s Hope for a Cure, the Lydia Cancer Association and Miles Perret.
PO Box 2138
Abbeville, La. 70510
(website and Facebook page under construction)
Cassie Levy, who created the non-profit organization in memory of her parents, the late Irvin and Josephine Levy, established the Levy Foundation in 2013. Irvin Levy Sr. died of pancreatic cancer and Josephine Levy was a two-time breast cancer survivor. Josephine was a board member of Abbeville General Hospital for nearly 20 years and died of a heart attack while attending a board meeting.
The day following her mother’s death, Cassie approached Abbeville General Hospital’s CEO Ray Landry and presented the idea of starting a foundation for cancer awareness and support based at Abbeville General. Landry agreed and the idea was presented at a board meeting. The members overwhelmingly agreed and the partnership between the Levy Foundation and Abbeville General was born.
“My mother was a two-time breast cancer survivor and she constantly spoke of how blessed she was to have good caregivers, yet so many others did not,” Cassie says. According to Cassie, her mother traveled to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for treatment for her first bout with cancer and to Louisiana Oncology in Lafayette when the cancer reoccurred. “My mother wished there was a place closer that people in Vermilion Parish could go to when they needed cancer treatment.”
Abbeville General had recently added a new cancer treatment wing, which made for perfect timing for collaboration between the hospital and the Foundation. A nurses’ station in the oncology wing is undergoing remodeling and will serve as the base for the Foundation. A waiting room on the same floor is also being remodeled for use as a chapel. “We want to provide a place for spiritual comfort,” Cassie says.
The Levy Foundation also attends to the physical comfort of cancer patients and their caregivers. Blankets emblazoned with the Foundation’s logo are given to each patient the first time he or she undergoes chemotherapy; pink for the ladies and purple for the men. Food vouchers are provided for caregivers’ meals in the hospital cafeteria. The Foundation has formed partnerships with the Abbeville Council on Aging to provide transportation for patients and caregivers to and from the hospital when taking chemotherapy treatments. Under an agreement with the Foundation, the Executive Inn of Abbeville provides a discounted rate for caregivers and relatives staying in the area for an extended time to be with a loved one undergoing treatment. “We want to try to do as much as possible to help patients and caregivers,” Cassie explains. “That was my mother’s dream.”
Board members also established the Foundation’s First Annual “Pink Masquerade Gala,” designed as the organization’s main fundraising event. The gala will be held every year on the last Saturday of September.
5319 Smith Road
New Iberia, La. 70560
Ask almost anyone in the Acadiana area concerning grass roots organizations committed to helping cancer patients and raising awareness and the name “Lydia Cancer Association” will be spoken. The Association had its beginnings as an American Cancer Society Morton Salt Company’s Relay for Life Team composed of
co-workers, family and friends of the late James Frawley Jr. For five years, co-founders Ronald Landry and the late James Frawley Jr. along with the other team members raised funds for the ACS. Realizing the need for rendering assistance locally to cancer patients in the community, Landry and Frawley founded the LCS in 2003. “We raised money for ACS that first year as a way to say ‘thank you’ for giving us a start,” Landry says. “From that point on, all the money we raised went to the Lydia Cancer Association to start helping people right here at home.”
LCA covers the four-parish area of Iberia, St. Mary, St. Martin and Vermilion. The Association helps with medical expenses, prescriptions, utilities, transportation and groceries. LCA outreach is extensive, helping more than 50 to 60 people a month. “I have well over 100 applications that I’m logging and processing right now,” says LCA Outreach Manager and Treasurer Robin Bonin.
New Iberia resident Marilyn Monroe speaks highly of LCA, describing the warmth, care and personal attention she received from members. Diagnosed in 2014 with breast cancer, Monroe turned to LCA. “They relieved a lot of pressure and stress,” Monroe recalls. “I received help, both physical and mental. They’re good any way you need them; for talking or just to be there to hold your hand.”
Monroe participated in the Survivor’s Walk held during opening ceremonies of the 2014 Lydia Food Festival, the Association’s major fundraiser. “The walk was inspiring because I heard other people’s stories – not just the survivors, but those who did not survive. I thought that was beautiful, and I shed tears for myself and others.”
In addition to the annual Food Festival, the LCA fundraisers include an annual golf tournament put on by a third party donating the proceeds, a fishing tournament and a Breast Cancer Walk. Members of LCA also serve as volunteers for events held by a number of local cancer associations.
2130 Kaliste Saloom Road
Lafayette, La. 70508
When their son Miles was diagnosed in 1995, his family pledged he would enjoy as normal and carefree a life as possible. A year later Miles succumbed to a brain tumor. In 2001 the Perret family started Lafayette’s iconic Games of Acadiana, a family friendly fundraising event. The overwhelming success of the Games enabled the family to open the Miles Perret Center less than a year later in June 2002. Today the center is known as Miles Perret Cancer Services, a resource center with a mission to help Acadiana citizens “fight, survive and live with cancer.” Since opening June 2002 MPCS has helped more than 10,000 Acadiana families.
Knowing first hand the special struggles encountered by cancer patients and their families, the mission of MPCS is “founded on the principle that life is sacred, and quality of life should not be forgotten or neglected, particularly when battling cancer.” On receiving a diagnosis, cancer patients and family members are in dire need of support from an organized source to assist them on the journey to healing and health.
The Perret family acknowledges the generous donors and volunteers helping to carry out the mission of MPCS. “Our mission is to help local families fight, survive, and live with cancer. Since 2002, we have served 10,000 families in our 10-parish service area and could not have accomplished this without the generous support of our donors, volunteers, and the entire Acadiana community. We hope to continue to be a safe haven for all of our friends and neighbors fighting this life altering disease,” says MPCS Executive Director Nicole Jones.
In addition to the annual Games of Acadiana serving as its primary fundraising event, MPCS hosts other events throughout the year including Kicks for Miles, MPCS Triathlon, Benefit Concerts and the Camellia Crossing, slated for Nov. 26. Additionally, MPCS accepts private donations, memorial gifts and grants.