By Dawn Kiefer
Many local people believe that last Friday’s temperature was the highest it’s ever been during a Walk with GRACE event.
But that didn’t deter over 1,000 people from heading over to Richland Center’s Krouskop Park for the annual fundraising event.
Exactly 100 survivors took part in the Walk, as did 36 teams. Three Ambassadors addressed the crowd and, according to Walk with GRACE board president Keith Behling, “They did a great job!”
During the Walk with GRACE opening ceremony Behling said about the Ambassadors, “Your courage to speak about your cancer journey is not easy. However, your message is very important. It may motivate someone who is holding back on a doctor appointment to have something that is not quite right checked. Your message can save lives. It also reinforces the reason all these people are here tonight. They want to help. They do help!”
Behling acknowledges the dedication of the great number of team members who raise funds nearly all year long; numerous Walk with GRACE subcommittee members who help plan and run the event; the Richland County Beef Producers, who both serve food at the event and donate funds from those sales to Walk with GRACE; Center Café for preparing and serving food at the Kilian Meyer Building in the park; local veterans for presenting colors during the opening ceremony; those who donated items for the silent auction; his fellow Board members; and Walk with GRACE Chairperson Sue Klingaman.
Walk with GRACE Board members are: President Keith Behling; Vice President Jan Neumann; Treasurer Marge Bisco; Secretary Rod Reetz; Director for Patient Assistance Sherry Cooper; and Directors Doug Duhr, Derek Kalish and June Nee.
During the event, 1,300 luminaries were lit in honor of survivors and in memory of those who have passed on. Additionally, for the first time at Walk with GRACE, during the closing ceremony, the parking lot lights were turned off and participants shone flashlights and cell phone lights. “It gave a nice effect,” Behling said.
Walk with GRACE Board members are pleased with this year’s event.
“We’re thankful for the people who came despite the heat,” Behling said, “and we’re grateful for the phenomenal support we get to continue the mission.”
At press time, the current total raised is $263,709.46. The silent auction, which consisted of around 200 items, raised $7,488.50.
Funds raised go to: research, which is evenly split between the UW-Madison Carbone Cancer Center and Gundersen Lutheran of La Crosse; the local medical community; patient assistance; preventative education; and operating expenses.
From the inception of Walk with GRACE in 2004 to the present time, 451 applications from 358 individuals were approved. Only 23 applicants have ever been denied and that was almost always because they reside outside the Walk with GRACE area. (GRACE stands for Greater Richland Area Cancer Elimination.)
An individual can apply for assistance a total of three times. The first time they can receive up to $2,500, the second time (after at least 12 months have passed) they can receive up to $2,000 and the third time (after an additional minimum of 12 months have passed) they can receive up to $1,000.
Cash is not provided to those who are approved for assistance. Instead, an approved individual submits bills and GRACE reimburses the businesses. Sometimes vouchers, such as for gasoline, are provided. Assistance can be provided for a number of items, including groceries and heating fuel.
“We’re extremely fortunate to have such generous people in the community,” Behling said.