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After a five-year hiatus, the Pink Ladies group is officially back. And its members are ready to pick up where they left off — providing hope, strength and support services for breast cancer patients in Wilson County.
“Everyone who has heard about this is excited,” said Beth Rhyne, Pink Ladies board president. “We want the community to be excited. Wilson County is one of several counties who has a very high rate of breast cancer. It’s just another reason why we needed to bring it back and help these people in our community. It’s important.”
The Pink Ladies, who ran the Mother’s Day Mammogram Program for 10 years, initially operated under the WilMed Healthcare Foundation but could no longer operate under that umbrella once Wilson Medical Center was acquired by Duke LifePoint and lost its not-for-profit status. Leftover funds were then transferred to the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson. For the past several years, the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson provided grants to Carolina Family Health Centers and the Wilson County Health Department to help with access for mammograms and promote breast cancer awareness.
In August, Rhyne said former Pink Ladies members got together and began to talk about how they could help breast cancer patients with basic needs and approached the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson about the idea. The foundation recently presented the remainder of the breast cancer fund balance — nearly $256,000 — to the newly formed Pink Ladies group to carry on its passionate mission.
The Pink Ladies is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and a separate entity.
“Everything has been approved by the state, and we are official,” Rhyne said.
MEETING BASIC NEEDS
Rhyne said the nonprofit wanted to make an impact on the community by helping breast cancer patients with basic needs, which could include utility bills, food, gas to get to treatments and other necessities.
While the group can’t provide funds for treatment or doctor visit co-pays, the Pink Ladies can help with those basic needs, which frees up money for the patient to pay for other treatment-related costs.
Rhyne said there are many stories of breast cancer patients who simply can’t get to their chemotherapy treatment because they can’t afford gas. Others couldn’t afford to pay their car insurance, which snowballed into an inability to drive to treatment centers.
One patient couldn’t mow her lawn due to the treatment. She had no one who could help her.
“It’s simple stuff,” Rhyne said.
In 2002, Inza Walston, a breast cancer survivor and former WilMed Healthcare Foundation board member, knew she wanted to help breast cancer patients. She put together two golf tournaments that proved to be successful and gained vast support from the Wilson community. Walston, now a board member at large with the newly formed Pink Ladies nonprofit, was instrumental in laying the groundwork for what would eventually be a program that helped hundreds of breast cancer patients.
In 2004, Robin Williams, former WilMed Healthcare Foundation director, started Mother’s Day mammograms with the help of those initial golf tournament funds and a $5,000 grant.
“The Mother’s Day Mammograms Program was created to help provide access to screenings to those who needed it most, and it grew to include all treatment up to a diagnosis,” Williams said. “The Pink Ladies were formed to help administer the program, provide support to the ladies and fund raise so we could provide treatment if they were diagnosed. Our mission was to pay for all treatment until they were cancer-free. These mammogram ladies became a part of our extended families. We provided hope, love, support and encouragement. It was amazing.”
The group started with eight members and grew to more than 100. There was also a Junior Pink Ladies group that had more than 50 members.
HOW IT WILL WORK
Lisa Skinner, Wilson Medical Center’s patient navigator for all individuals diagnosed with cancer here, works as a liaison between the patient, caregiver and the patient’s medical team.
“She sees all women with breast cancer for the county,” Rhyne said.
The Pink Ladies will now be a resource for Skinner as she helps navigate breast cancer patients through the process. She will be able to assess their basic needs and reach out to the nonprofit for financial help.
“Lisa gets to know the women on a deep level,” Rhyne said. “That’s where we are going to start.”
Skinner’s office is housed at Wilson Radiation Oncology.
Rhyne said group members are grateful for all the support from the Wilson community since its inception years ago and hope to build upon that in the coming months.
“So many lives were changed,” she said. “It is very important that the money stays here and it helps these breast cancer patients directly.”
And the Pink Ladies say they can’t wait to make a difference in the lives of many more now that they’re back.
INFORMATION AND DONATIONS
For more information or questions regarding breast cancer assistance through the Pink Ladies group, contact Lisa Skinner at 252-399-7470 or 252-290-0516. Monetary donations can be made to The Pink Ladies, P.O. Box 1949, Wilson NC 27893. The nonprofit also accepts memorials and honor memorials.