Community

Women raise funds to help pay for cancer care-related travel expenses

Sequim resident Anetta Callin-Young’s weekly trips to Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center for chemotherapy treatment were grueling. An average trip lasted an exhausting 12 hours for the 64-year-old, who was diagnosed with uterine cancer.

The trips also were expensive, costing $75 to $100 per trip. But in that area at least, Callin-Young has found relief, with the help of the Kingston-based Kathleen Sutton Inspirational Fund. The fund helps women pay for transportation to and from treatments for breast, cervical, ovarian and uterine cancer. Callin-Young is among about 50 women the foundation has helped cover travel expenses this year.

“It’s huge what they’re doing for me,” she said. “It’s huge.”

The foundation’s biggest fundraiser of the year is Saturday, Oct. 3 at the Kingston Community Center. The benefit auction puts up for bid hotel and vacation packages and a host of other donated items.

The money helps cancer patients pay for gasoline, ferry tickets, parking and even taxis if needed. They’re all relatively small costs, but they add up to a big expense often not covered by insurance or other health care programs.

“The traveling isn’t as bad as the expenses,” said Carole Boardman, a 73-year-old Port Angeles resident who made frequent trips to Seattle’s Cancer Care Alliance for breast cancer treatment this summer. “That’s the pressure, wondering how am I going to pay for this when I’m on a fixed income?”

Boardman made 15 trips to Seattle before she was referred to the Sutton fund, which reimbursed all her travel expenses.

“It was just a godsend,” Boardman said. “These are the things you worry about, and the fund took that worry away.”

Kathleen Sutton knew the strain travel could put on a cancer patient.

After Sutton was diagnosed with breast cancer, her friend Vivi-Ann Parnell drove her to Swedish for treatment each week and the pair decided to organize a fundraiser to help pay for the cost of travel. Their first auction netted $5,000.

Sutton died in 2004, but the auctions continued. Her friends renamed the fund in her honor and carried on raising money for women experiencing the same ordeal as Sutton.

“We thought she was an inspiration to all of us,” Parnell said.

The 2008 auction raised $30,000, even as the economy began its slide. The foundation stretches the money far. It has almost no administrative costs outside of ordering some brochures and newspaper ads.

Parnell is proud of how much the fund accomplishes with so little.

“We’ve built it up, slowly but surely,” she said.

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