How to save a life

The big “C” – Cancer strikes someone every single day. There’s no new news in that.

The brainchild of a small group of dedicated volunteers is to aide people who need help with their economic burden during cancer treatments.  The Virginia Cancer Patient Fund (VCPF) focuses their efforts to help cancer patients going through treatment pay their essential bills such as mortgage, rent or utilities while they are out of work going through stressful treatments.

The group of volunteers started VCPF almost 10 years ago as one of them was suffering cancer. He saw that there was a need. Most cancer funds are used to do vital research to try to end cancer. Yet, there is still the needs of the cancer patient going through day-to-day treatments.

They usually have run out of sick pay and time off from work long before their six months of treatments end. If they don’t have savings they can be devastated.

VCPF tries to ease the burden of these patients through small relief in helping them pay such bills. “Cancer touches everyone, every person walking this earth,” shared Toni McDavid, president of VCPF. “Over one million cases are diagnosed every year.”

Board member Claire Hylton Sheppard shared, “One cycle of bills missed can put a family behind, wages can be compromised during treatment, or there can even be a job loss due to so much time missed during treatments; all of these things take a toll on a cancer patient and their family.”

Sheppard and McDavid are only two of the original board members that began the grassroots group back in 2005. The group has its root in Chesterfield, with five of the original members graduates of Thomas Dale High School.

As a result of this allegiance, the group has grown to include a group of dedicated volunteers who support the efforts to help those in need during harrowing cancer treatments.

“We know how necessary research is to the cure to cancer,” said McDavid. “We try to bridge the gap for cancer patients; we come and help them meet their financial  responsibilities during the very stressful treatment times.”

The group is small and efficient. They have no office space and no paid staff. They rely on the efforts of volunteers and unpaid internships to grow the organization. VCPF reaches out to help those in need in the Richmond area and the surrounding areas of Amelia, Caroline, Charles City, Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Goochland, Hopewell, Hanover, Henrico, Louisa, Petersburg, Colonial Heights, King and Queen, King William, New Kent, Powhatan, Prince George and Sussex.

The grassroots group of VCPF would love to see their non-profit organization grow much larger to help so many more cancer patients. “Cancer adds so much stress to these people’s lives and this little bit of help at their most desperate time may give them the hope they need,” said Sheppard.

Sheppard was the Client Advocate for many years that the VCPF had offices and met face-to-face with clients on a daily basis. She recounts a story of one client who cried because VCPF paid her water bill. She told of how the patient “no longer had to do her laundry in the sink and she could take a bath and do a load of laundry.” Sheppard commented, “Imagine being in the middle of cancer treatments and also imagine the loss of the basics we all take for granted.”

The group always appreciates volunteers to help and they always need more funds so they can help more cancer patients. “Help us raise money so we can help them stay in their homes and have basic necessities,” shared McDavid.

Sheppard also shared that groups are always needed to do fundraising. “If there are church or civic groups out there that would like to take on a fundraising project, please contact us because we need your efforts to support VCPF,” she said.

VCPF sponsors two major fundraisers per year. One is coming up in April – The second annual “Survivor’s Celebration” on the 19th at the Highlands Country Club. For ticket purchase, go to www.vcpf.org.

This event and the annual golf tournament are the two fund raisers that keep VCPF going each year. The Annual VCPF Golf Tournament will be held at the Birkdale Golf Club on June 17, 2013. To get a team together and play in the tournament, contact mchutchinson1@yahoo.com.

“We are unique in that we need fundraising. Help us raise money so we can help cancer patients stay in their homes and have the basic necessities of life,” said McDavid.

The group has dedicated many years of their lives to building and growing this “small fish in a big pond” as Sheppard would say. “We want to help the cancer patient avoid being evicted or aid them in paying these important bills; we know how overwhelming, emotionally and physically it can all be,” Sheppard said.

Sometimes the group knows their efforts are small. “We know we are sometimes only a band aid,” McDavid said. “Sometimes that’s just what they need. If we can keep them in their home for 30 more days they can try to find other resources and get help and it’s just what they need for that time.”

Each day brings another cancer patient who has to make a choice between food or medicine, housing or health care. Cancer imposes heavy economic burdens on both patients and their families and the funds VCPF provides help them focus on treatment and recovery. Donations make an immediate impact on the lives of so many people suffering from the effects of cancer.

About 1,638,910 new cancer cases were expected to be diagnosed in 2012. Each of those families have electric bills, mortgage/rent payments and other utilities that must be paid. If their treatment takes them away from their work they may not be paid. How do they pay their bills during treatments that may stretch to six months? VCPF saw a need...

The group wishes they could do more. They are happy to come and speak at organizations, churches, or anyplace to get the word out. “It sure has been a team effort,” said McDavid. “It’s a we not an I, it’s been us.”

To reach VCPF, call 804.276.0640 or they can be found on Facebook at Virginia Cancer Patient Fund, or for applications or to donote, go to www.vcpf.org.

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