Community laces up to help in fight against cancer
By Toni Miles
There was plenty of hope, support and answered prayers to go around at this year’s Walk of Hope in Long Beach on April 30, an annual walk and fundraiser held the last Saturday each April to help those in the local community fighting cancer.
“I was a little concerned when we first got here, but the sun came out,” said Brenda Long, president, Pink Heart Funds. “The community and volunteers and everybody have gotten behind us, and they’ve helped us so much.”
The support was evidenced by the estimated three hundred people from all walks of life who turned out for this year’s event, which was put on jointly by the Pink Hearts Fund and Memorial Foundation Oncology Funds. The non-profits joined forces two years ago to help in the fight against cancer.
“This would have been Pink Heart Funds’ 17th annual walk, but, two years ago, we decided to take it out of October, because everybody thought it was just for breast cancer,” said JoAn Niceley, founder and CEO of Pink Heart Funds. “We provide wigs and other services for ALL cancers, women and children.”
“The Pink Heart Funds is known for breast cancer and prosthetics, but, when we joined with Memorial Foundation Oncology Funds, we support all kinds of cancers. It helps with gas cards, transportations, whatever needs they have, really. The great thing is, it stays local and helps locals battling cancer.”
Through their combined forces, the Pink Hearts Fund and Memorial Foundation Oncology Funds provide prescription assistance, as well as gas vouchers to help provide those battling cancer with transportation to their medical appointments and treatments, because, according to Nicely, sometimes radiation treatments are five days a week.
Volunteer Debbie Albrecht knows first-hand how much that assistance means.
“Me personally, I’m a cancer survivor,” said Albrecht, a Pink Hearts Fund volunteer who was also running the event’s silent auction. “JoAn is the one who gave me the free wig and support; the whole group did. They encouraged me, gave me hope, and just helped me get through it.”
“We give them hope, and we inspire them to be strong through their battle,” Albrecht said. “We give out free wigs, breast prosthetics and prosthetic bras.”
Participants bid on donated items in this year’s silent auction, and also purchased raffle tickets for prizes that were given out at the walk.
But this year’s event wasn’t confined to just the fight against cancer. There was a butterfly release and a celebration of local survivors and their personal metamorphosis and transition back to remission and good health.
“We have a survivor’s area and a segment just for them,” Long said. “We give them tiaras and medals. We celebrate them. This is why we do this, to celebrate our survivors and let the people battling cancer know they don’t fight alone. We are right here with them.”
Niceley was decked out head-to-toe with accessories – a tiara, sparkling accessories and a tutu, but make no mistake. She and all those at the annual event are fighters, reflecting this year’s theme: “No one fights alone,” and their mission is to inspire, encourage and give hope to those in the local community fighting cancer.
“I would say we’ve definitely helped - it could be 4,000 – I‘ve lost track, but we’ve definitely helped 2,000 women and children here on this Coast,” Nicely said.
To learn more about the Pink Hearts Fund or to donate, visit www.PinkHeartsFund.org.