The Cancer Wellness Foundation supports local cancer patients, arming them with information, resources and more to help them overcome some of the many challenges they face in the fight to beat the disease.Everyone has been touched by a cancer story, whether it’s a personal journey or one of a family member, friend or coworker. For Carol Gunter, her cancer stories walk through the doors of her office building every day.
“Seeing the determination of our patients and how badly they want to live – that’s what keeps me invigorated. We are working every day to get them to the other side of that diagnosis,” she said.
Gunter is the new Executive Director of the Cancer Wellness Foundation, a Montgomery nonprofit dedicated to helping local cancer patients after a diagnosis has been made. The organization fills a gap that no other group does, ensuring patients have transportation to get to life-saving treatments while advocating to secure the medications critical to their care. “You have folks that have just been diagnosed with cancer, and they are trying to make a decision about how they are going to afford to pay for medicines they need, how to put gas in their car or how to take that much time off of work,” Gunter said. “We remove those burdens for them.” Last year alone, the small, four-person staff (previously led by Executive Director Wendy Anzalone) connected patients with $12 million in medications that the patients wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise because they are uninsured, the medication isn’t covered by insurance or the numerous copays are impossible to fit within a budget. “We apply for grants for those patients and facilitate all the paperwork on their behalf. The patients could do it themselves, but it is an extensive process. The work we do allows the patient to focus on getting better,” Gunter said.
To solve the transportation issue, the Cancer Wellness Foundation partners with several Central Alabama gas stations. Patients are given a voucher to use at those gas stations, which covers the fuel needed to get to and from their appointments. “The gas stations essentially allow us to purchase gas on a credit, and we reimburse them when they mail back the vouchers. It is an incredibly important relationship,” Gunter said. In the event a patient doesn’t have the means to drive or be driven to an appointment, the team can also provide a ride to and from treatments.
Funding the Gap in Patient Services
The Cancer Wellness Foundation was founded 22 years ago by a group of oncologists and radiologists. While its offices are housed freeof- charge inside Baptist Health’s Montgomery Cancer Center, the organization operates independently from the hospital. It is supported solely by the efforts and contributions of businesses, organizations and individuals. “At this cancer center, there are 40 new patients diagnosed with cancer every week. When I would go out and fundraise, I had a really special story to tell. Every dollar contributed to the foundation is used in the Montgomery and Central Alabama area,” Anzalone said.
“The fact that 100 percent of our donations stay local is huge for us,” said Janet Roberts, Relationship Manager for River Bank and Trust. “A cancer diagnosis can be catastrophic, and we are proud to support the Cancer Wellness Foundation’s work to support those patients and their families.” Roberts, who also serves on the board of directors for the foundation, added, “I have loved the opportunity to see firsthand how our donations are impacting lives here in our community.”
Feeling Blue for the Cancer Wellness Foundation
During the month of March, Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, the Cancer Wellness Foundation will host its second annual Women in Blue campaign. Colon cancer is the second leading cancer-killer among men and women, but it is one of the most treatable cancers if caught early.
All month long, more than a dozen local women leaders will wear blue every day and\ use their respective voices and networks to educate the community on the campaign’s mission and meet their personal fundraising goals. Each Woman in Blue has her own online fundraising page and is encouraged to use social media to point friends and family to that page while also spreading awareness. The goal is to get women talking to their doctors, learning their family history and finding out the best prevention methods for them personally.
Last year’s campaign far surpassed their expectations. The 2019 Women in Blue raised more than $75,000, well above its $30,000 goal, and they’re hoping 2020 yields an even higher number.
Gunter and her team are excited about the growth possibilities the campaign provides. The foundation’s future is strong, she believes, and it empowers them to continue the fight to give help and hope right here at home.
Montgomery Zoo Collected Supplies for the Needy During Christmas Lights Festival The Montgomery Zoo and Mann Wildlife Learning Museum partnered with the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless (MACH) to collect socks, gloves and blankets for those without shelter last December.
For several days during the annual Christmas Lights Festival, guests received $1 off admission with the donation of a new pair/package of socks, pair of gloves or a blanket. All items collected were delivered to MACH for distribution throughout the River\ Region.
“We were excited to partner with the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless to help provide needed items for citizens who find themselves without shelter,” Melanie Golson, APR, Marketing and Public Relations Manager for the Zoo said. “The River Region is such a caring community, and we were so happy to be a collection point for this worthy organization.”
Lydia Pickett with MACH was overjoyed when the Zoo reached out to plan this event. “I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it is that the City of Montgomery Zoo stepped up to help meet the needs of those less fortunate,” she said. “This is a critical time of year for us with the winter weather, so we are in desperate need for additional supplies.”