UHC uses the Force at 6th annual cancer walk

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Survivors and those whose lives have been affected by cancer channeled their inner Jedi to help raise money for cancer research and patient care.

Characters from the Star Wars films walked alongside those who have beaten the disease for Friday’s “Walk with the Force and Combat Cancer” event at UHC.

“Today we’re looking at cancer and what it means to our associates, what it means to the people taking care of those [patients] and what it means to our community,” said Linda Carte, vice president of cancer services and post-acute care at UHC.

Over the past five years, the event has raised $35,500 for organizations dedicated to bringing about a cure to cancer or assists those diagnosed with cancer through the process.

This year, UHC selected the American Cancer Society’s local Relay for Life event and Wings of Hope, a volunteer organization works to ease the burden of fighting cancer for patients.

Events like the cancer walk create the entirety of the latter group’s budget, and those who work with Wings of Hope were grateful the hospital included them in the effort.

“That’s a huge win for us,” said Debbie Thompson, committee member for the organization. “We are a group of volunteers. None of us get paid, we all have regular jobs, so we raise money by doing fundraisers.”

Funds raised Friday will go toward gas cards given to patients to help pay for travel to treatments, hotel rooms if a patient and their family need to stay close by overnight, Wal-Mart gift cards to help pay for necessities, among other things.

The group was founded roughly three years ago by a group dedicated to raising money for cancer awareness.

In an effort to ensure the funds stayed within the community, Wings of Hope partnered with UHC to connect them with the hospital’s patients.

“This community group has worked long and hard to make sure that a financial barrier isn’t a reason a person couldn’t get treatment,” Carte said.

Cancer is a truly personal cause for Thompson, who is now a four year survivor of colon cancer.

She was among those to take a “victory lap” around the hospital with other staff members and volunteers at UHC to survive cancer, all of which were recognized by Carte and other administrators to kick off the festivities.

“We forget that the people that we work with often are cancer survivors as well,” Carte said. “The first part of the program today was really to honor people that work here in the hospital.”

It was also important to promote survivorship at the event because seeing others win their battle against cancer could provide someone just diagnosed with a new hope.

“Ever day’s a new day,” Thompson said. “There’s someone out there that will hold your hand and help you along the way and you just need to tell them that you’re there and they know you’re there.”

More information about the Cecil B. Highland, Jr. & Barbara B. Highland Cancer Center at UHC can be found by calling 681-342-1804, while information on Wings of Hope can be learned by calling 304-677-3702.

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