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With fond memories of their friend, giving continues
For six years, Kathleen Sutton fought breast cancer. And for most of that time, Vivi-Ann Parnell was at her side, making sure that Sutton had a way to get to her treatments at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.
Parnell, a Kingston-area resident, smiles as she recalls memories of her friend who died in April 2004.
But the memory of Sutton is what brings a group of local women together and has kept Sutton’s work living on past her death. These women make up the Kathleen Sutton Inspirational Fund.
The nonprofit fund helps provide travel expenses for women who are suffering from breast, ovarian and cervical cancer so they can get to and from their treatments and doctors appointments.
“It seems impossible, but we have women right here in our communities who give up on getting treatment, not because they can’t afford the treatment, but because they don’t have the money to fill their car with gas and take the ferry to their chemo appointment,” said Parnell. “For some women, it can be as much as $100 a trip, and they have to make 20, 30 or 40 trips over the course of their treatment.”
When Sutton was making trips to her treatments, Swedish was one of the only places around to get the kind of chemotherapy she needed.
Now, treatments are available on the Kitsap Peninsula. Still, some patients need help, Parnell said.
The organization helps women in Kitsap, Jefferson, Clallam and Mason counties. Since its beginning 10 years ago, they’ve given more than $250,000 to women in need of help with transportation. They’ve helped more than 600 women and last year alone, they gave $35,411 in aid.
The women work through local oncologists and through area hospitals, often times telling the patient navigators about what the organization does.
“We do get referrals, too,” said Parnell. “We will help any woman who comes to us and we don’t ask a lot of financial questions. We just want to be able to provide them with rides to their treatment if needed, and funds for the ferry and gas when needed.”
Valerie Rotmark is one of the group’s members who knows cancer first-hand.
“I actually had a pretty easy time of it,” she said of her fight against breast cancer. “So I decided I needed to help other women.”
Member Linda Joyce, who is in the midst of fighting cancer, said the women who they help come from all over the area.
“There’s a need just about anywhere,” she said. “We see it in Bremerton, Belfair … a medical crisis is the great equalizer.”
When the economy took a downturn around 2007, women came for help who were professionals, owned their own home and car, but had been laid off, had little or no insurance and no cash to get to their treatments.
The organization makes most of the money it gives away through its annual auction which this year will be Oct. 6. It’s held at the Hood Canal Vista Pavilion in Port Gamble. A $15 ticket includes a beer or glass of wine, and hors d’oeuvres. The event is from 4 to 7 p.m.
“Last year we made $45,000,” said Parnell, noting the first year they were happy to have made $5,000.
They are proud of the fact that they have only a 2 percent overhead and that 98 percent of what they raise goes for direct services for women.
The work is as important as are the friends they’ve made through helping others.
“We’ve cried with them,” Rotmark said. She often will take women to treatment herself, as does another member, Rita Osborn, because they both have been through the experience of cancer. “We know what they’re going through and that alone is enough to make a difference.”
To be a part of the auction, go to www.kathleensutton.org. There you can see what’s being offered at the auction, donate, volunteer, or buy a ticket to the auction.
Or call Parnell at 360-620-3259.