Awareness month touches on year-round need

Awareness month touches on year-round need

Remnants of pink and teal confetti are all that’s visibly left of the Gift of Life fundraising walk held Oct. 7 in observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual event that not only raises awareness of deadly cancers but also serves as a celebration of life for those who have overcome breast and ovarian cancer. 

And although the event only runs one day of the year, the life-saving services funded by events such as the Gift of Life walk are in need year-round.

Hundreds of hurricane-battered and weary men and women didn’t let the fact that they were still mucking out homes and picking up drywall after work damper the celebration of life and participated in the program’s Walk of Survivorship, an event modified post-disaster from the traditional Julie Richardson Procter 5K Ribbon Run Color Rush. Still, according to Gift of Life founder Regina Rogers, the participation numbers were drastically reduced from that of years prior.

“Concerning numbers of participants this year, we had hundreds of registrants and hundreds more on the day of the Walk, but we don’t think it is possible to compare last year’s event with this year’s, which changed dramatically after the hurricane,” Rogers said. More than 7,000 annually attend the non-profit organization’s fundraising walk in normal years.

“As expected,” Gift of Life Executive Director Norma Sampson said, “the participation was down from previous years.”

A low turnout for a post-disaster event is no indication of the never-wavering support system of sponsors and volunteers that beats on despite the hard times for a program that never wavers in its support of making cancer survivors out of cancer patients. And with the program taking a loss in anticipated funding from one of the Gift of Life’s biggest annual fundraisers, the nonprofit is grateful for community support given “just because.” 

Beaumont ISD’s West Brook High School volleyball team players donated a portion of their concession proceeds to benefit the Gift of Life’s lifesaving mission and presented the organization with a generous donation at their recent Pink Out game, and Planet Nutrition in Beaumont celebrated its grand opening on Oct. 14 by donating a portion of their proceeds to the Gift of Life, serving as just a couple of examples of the community’s support.

In addition, Philpott Motors hosted special breakfast to honor local breast cancer survivors, recognizing their courage, strength and spirit, on Wednesday, Oct. 11, in Nederland. Since 2013, Philpott has sponsored the Gift of Life’s Women’s Health Program, which provides free healthcare for medically underserved women, including free clinical breast exams and mammograms. Philpott’s commitment to pay it forward and support community causes that benefit individuals in need makes a critical difference in the lives of Southeast Texans.

“We are deeply appreciative of their support, which will further the Gift of Life’s lifesaving mission across seven Southeast Texas counties,” Gift of Life’s social media extolls of its benefactors.

“Regarding volunteers,” Rogers added, “many have experienced devastating damages, but we have an arsenal of individuals who have been involved with us for more than 20 years, and they continue to help us provide program services, that never wane.”

And the need never wanes, either.

“More individuals than ever before do not have the funds to pay for insurance, and they are unable to access healthcare,” Rogers said. “The Gift of Life is the only Southeast Texas organization providing free breast and prostate cancer screenings, as well as all diagnostics including biopsies, and for men who have prostate cancer, the program also pays for all costs of treatment.”

“I guess it is also common knowledge that the Gift of Life is always here for everyone who needs help, regardless of whether it is outside the scope of our mission.

“And that is what we have been doing following the hurricane.”

The Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, serves seven Southeast Texas counties, and has funded more than 31,000 free mammograms and nearly 9,000 free prostate cancer screenings since its inception, reaching more than 100,000 children and adults. Rogers said that, to date, the organization has helped extend the lives of approximately 300 individuals who have been diagnosed with breast or prostate cancer and provided access to treatment through its efforts. To assist in the Gift of Life’s ongoing, year-round efforts, contact the program at (409) 833-3663, toll-free at (877) 720-4438, or via e-mail at info [at] giftoflifebmt [dot] org.

For our neighbors like Lori Odom, your support could mean the difference between life and death.

“Cancer is bad, but my life is forever changed for the better because of the love and support I have received,” Odom said of her experience with the Gift of Life. “If you don’t have insurance, the Gift of Life will help you get your mammogram. It may even save your life, like it’s doing for me.”

To find out if you qualify for a mammogram, call (409) 860-3369 or toll-free at (877) 720-GIFT (4438). Appointments are necessary as space is limited.