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Party in the Park

Benefit to assist patients with cancer

April 29, 2012
by SHAUNNA DUNDER HERSHBERGER - Lifestyles Editor ( , Times Leader

Nobody wants to hear the words, "You have cancer." The effects of the disease on your body is devastating enough. But what about the effects of the disease on your wallet?

While in most cases insurance covers the majority of the cost of chemotherapy and radiation, sometimes patients still must pay for a portion of their treatment. In addition, lab work and expensive tests aren't always covered fully. These are the things that most cancer patients and their families worry about - how are we going to pay for this?

But there are also the little things that many don't think of that can really wear on a patient. For instance, most patients undergoing chemotherapy need to visit the doctor at least once a week, while patients undergoing radiation therapy make daily trips to the treatment center. Soaring gas prices concern many, but they are particularly devastating to people who are already strapped financially just trying to pay for life-saving treatment. In addition, the cost of wigs and prescription co-pays can leave cancer patients and their families feeling overwhelmed and totally devastated.

Article Photos

On Saturday, May 12 at 6 p.m., the Circus Saints and Sinners present “Party in the Park,” a fund-raising event for the Schiffler Cancer Center’s Patient Assistance Fund. The fund assists patients and families with various needs such as gas, prescriptions, lodging, wigs and more. All of the proceeds from this event directly benefit the fund. Some of the event planners, from left, are Michele Braley, department coordinator at Schiffler Cancer Center; Frank Carolla, representing major sponsor Perkins Restaurant and Bakery; Dean Connors, “Party in the Park” event chairman; and Jeff Yourkovich, Circus Saints and Sinners Poodles Hanneford Tent president.

Some non-profit organizations offer assistance to those with financial hardships, but unfortunately, their funding can become quickly depleted or patients don't always meet the criteria for assistance.

In order to help bridge these gaps and break down barriers to care, the Schiffler Cancer Center at Wheeling Hospital - the region's only accredited comprehensive cancer program - established the Patient Assistance Fund, also known as the Oncology Charity Fund, in 2011 with funds raised from the Inaugural Ladies Spring Tea. This fund assists patients and families with various needs such as gasoline financial assistance, cab fare, prescriptions, tube feeding solutions, medical nutrition products, lodging or hotel expenses, groceries, scarves and hats for ladies, and various other expenses. This type of assistance can make a difference in whether or not a patient chooses to move forward with his or her treatment plan.

The Patient Assistance Fund is managed by Melissa Mealy, ACS Patient Resource Navigator, with oversight provided by Rhonda Braden, Director of Social Services at Wheeling Hospital. Because the fund is so new, Schiffler Cancer Center is learning daily the needs of their patients and how to address those needs with these funds.

On Saturday, May 12, the Poodles Hanneford Tent of the Circus Saints and Sinners Club of America will present "Party in the Park," a fund-raiser where 100 percent of the funds benefit the Schiffler Cancer Center's Patient Assistance Fund.

"When Dean Connors of Circus Saints and Sinners contacted me about doing a fund-raiser for the Schiffler Cancer Center, he mentioned that the main stipulation was that the money raised must stay local," stated Michele Braley, department coordinator at Schiffler Cancer Center. "As chairman of this year's fund-raising event, he stated he really wanted to be able to help cancer patients in some way. I immediately thought of the Patient Assistance Fund and knew it would be a great choice for their organization's fund-raiser. We are grateful that this event will be able to help so many of our patients that are in need of some type of assistance."

The event begins at 6 p.m. and will take place in Oglebay Park's Levinson Shelter (Site #1). Music begins at 7 p.m. and features The Fabulous Bender Boys.

"The Bender Boys are hugely popular, combining old school and new with their unique 'Benderized Country' sound," said tent president Jeff Yourkovich, referring to the unique 'Bender' style guitar playing that is similar to the playing styles of Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner and Marty Stuart. "They really are fabulous and where else can you hear AC/DC and Sugar Ray along with classic country and bluegrass?"

In addition, the event includes the local debut of Martins Ferry-based Jeanne's Bourbon Street BBQ, a 50-foot restaurant on wheels. The mobile eatery, affectionately known as "the big pig rig," will be serving a menu of roasted chicken, smoked pork loin, twice baked potato salad and green beans.

Primary sponsor of the event is Perkins Restaurant and Bakery with additional sponsorship provided by Carenbauer Distributing, Main Street Bank, Broadwater Properties, Gary Dietz Allstate Insurance, Nini's Treasures, Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration and Pickles Grog and Grill.

Circus Saints and Sinners is a national charitable organization that raises money for local charities. Where most social or fraternal organizations have chapters, the Saints and Sinners groups are called "tents" in reference to the canvas tent used to house the audience at a circus performance. The club is a non-sectarian, non-political association of successful business and professional men dedicated to fellowship and charitable giving. The members - due to their human imperfections - represent "sinners," who strive to be "saints" of mercy by helping those less fortunate.

The club's origins date back to 1926 when a small group of circus enthusiasts in New York City founded the Circus Fans Association of America. In 1929, several of them resigned their membership and formed the Circus Saints and Sinners Club of America. The Wheeling tent was founded in October of that year and has been in continuous operation ever since. Named in honor of renowned circus performer Poodles Hanneford, the local tent is the third oldest in the country and is currently the largest with more than 150 members.

Throughout its long history, the local club has amassed an impressive track record of raising large sums of money and donating to numerous local causes.

"Over the years, we have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for many different charities," said event chairman Dean Connors. "In the past ten years alone, we've donated more than a quarter million dollars to groups such as WVU Children's Hospital, the Soup Kitchen, Boy Scouts of America, Family Service, and we recently donated $40,000 to The Miracle Field."

Tickets can be purchased at Yourkovich and Associates on Kruger Street in Elm Grove, Security Travel on Market Street in Wheeling, Grindhouse Coffee and Tea in St. Clairsville, Pickles Grog and Grill on Fulton Street in Wheeling, or by calling 304-639-0958. Price includes food and beverage. Attendees are invited to bring their own additional food and drinks.

Sometimes, people don't realize just how traumatic cancer can be to a person financially. Benefits like "Party in the Park" and programs like the Patient Assistance Fund are in place to help cancer patients and their families ease the worry about the monetary aspect of treatment and place the focus on the most important thing - getting better.



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