Garding Against Cancer Helps Dunn County Residents Continue Their Cancer Treatments
The money raised at the 2017 Garding Against Cancer events in the Dunn County community of Menomonie is helping people in the area afford their cancer medications, in addition to funding groundbreaking research at the UW Carbone Cancer Center.
Since taking over as Badger basketball head coach, Greg Gard has used the annual exhibition game against a University of Wisconsin System opponent to highlight cancer patients in Wisconsin.
The first one, against his brother Jeff’s team, the UW-Platteville Pioneers, in October 2016, came on the anniversary of their father, Glen Gard, passing away from glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer. It led to the founding of Garding Against Cancer.
The next year the Badgers were slated to play the UW-Stout Blue Devils. The summer before, Greg and Michelle Gard came to Menomonie to meet with local physicians and citizens to learn about the needs of the community.
The meeting was held at the Mayo Clinic Red Cedar, the hospital in Menomonie where many area residents receive cancer care. It included representatives of the local free clinic, local pharmacists, and others.
As they talked, some health care leaders said that they had heard stories of people skipping their cancer medication because they couldn’t afford them.
Georgina Tegart, executive director of the Community Foundation of Dunn County, recalls Mayo Red Cedar administrator Steve Lindberg sharing stories of people who “drift away” from their cancer treatments. Some people never return for their adjuvant medicines, which are designed to lower the risk of cancer coming back.
“After they’ve done treatment, their resources are so depleted, because of the gas costs and the motel costs, that when it’s time for the follow-up medication, some people can’t afford it,’’ Tegart recalled. “They don’t want to be a further burden to their family, so they just kind of drift away from completing their treatment. If you don’t complete the treatment, you could relapse.”
Then, Tegart says, people at the meeting told the Gards about a successful local fund that the Community Foundation of Dunn County already runs. It supplies people with diabetes with vouchers for medicines and supplies (like syringes and blood sugar tests) that they can’t afford. Clinics and pharmacies have the vouchers on hand, and if someone needs diabetes supplies and can’t afford them, they get what they need, and the community foundation pays their bills.
Tegart says it was founded by the family of Camme B. Johnson, a young lady who died of diabetes complications.
The program is simple, it is local, and it works. The people at the meeting asked the Gards to consider funding a similar program for cancer medications. They agreed, and much to her surprise, Tegart found her group setting up another health care voucher fund. Each voucher can be used for pharmacy expenses up to $500, so there is a spending limit per voucher use.
“I was just asked to show up at this meeting, I didn’t know what it was about, so I was really surprised at the end of the meeting to be the one getting the check,’’ Tegart says. “I didn’t know the community foundation would be asked to distribute the money on behalf of the Garding Against Cancer but we believe it will work because of our experience with diabetes.”
The Gards appeared at two fundraisers in September 2017 in Menomonie, and all the money raised stayed in Dunn County. When the Garding Against Cancer check arrived in early 2018, Samantha Phillipps, the program officer for the Community Foundation of Dunn County, had the vouchers ready, and pharmacists lined up to accept them.
Tegart says she is impressed that the Gards are so aware of the unique struggles that rural people have when they are dealing with cancer.
“Whenever you hear Greg speak, he talks about villages and towns, and that is so good to hear out here,’’ Tegart says. “We have a lot of tiny villages that have less than 500 people in them, and some of these areas can be very rural and poor, and suffer from poor transportation and other barriers to health care access.”
Because rural people often have to travel long distances for treatment, they have gas and motel expenses. And sometimes they’re forced to choose between paying for food or paying for medications. Vouchers for needed medicines, she says, will help more Dunn County people complete their cancer treatments.
Date Published: 04/27/2018