By Ann Jantz, wyo4news.com
ROCK SPRINGS, WYOMING (Nov. 1, 2019) — It was 1994 when Cowboys Against Cancer hosted its first benefit and banquet. Now celebrating its 25th year, Cowboys Against Cancer continues its mission to help cancer patients and their families by assisting with travel and other expenses.
The annual banquet and benefit is today, Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Sweetwater Events Complex. The evening begins at 4 p.m. with a reception and auction preview, followed by dinner at 6 p.m., the live auction at 8 p.m. and dancing at 10 p.m.
Music will be provided by the Sundowners. Chef Michael Nook heads up a group of chefs from Montana, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Oklahoma, who travel at their own expense to create a unique culinary experience for those who attend the sold-out benefit.
A Volunteer Effort
For decades thousands of residents have offered a huge helping hand in making one woman’s efforts become a reality that has had staying power.
Founded by Margaret Parry in 1994, Cowboys Against Cancer is a non-profit all-volunteer organization organized exclusively to raise funds for disbursement to Sweetwater County residents diagnosed with cancer.
Through donating time, money, auction items, or attending the annual benefit and banquet, people have time and time again demonstrated generosity and commitment to local cancer patients receiving treatment, according to Parry.
“Each year as we invite our cancer survivors to the stage to be recognized during the Benefit and Banquet, we marvel at not only the increased numbers in attendance, but also at the positive, forceful determination they exhibit in letting us know that we are winning the battle,” Parry states on the organization’s website.
“There’s no way to describe how giving people are,” Parry told Wyo4News on Friday.
Here’s how distribution of the donations works — residents who choose to stay in Sweetwater County for their chemotherapy and radiation treatments can apply for a grant of $1,500. For those who require treatment out of town, they can apply for a $3,000 grant. It’s that simple.
Since its inception, Cowboys Against Cancer has distributed more than $5.5 million to thousands of cancer patients in Sweetwater County.
Why They Volunteer
Wyo4News took time Friday afternoon to speak with a few of the 140 volunteers involved in this year’s special anniversary banquet. Some of the volunteers come from out of the area, even from out of the state.
So … why do they volunteer? Many volunteer because cancer has affected them in a very personal way. Others volunteer to give back to the community.
But all said they volunteer because they believe Cowboys Against Cancer is a worthwhile organization that has helped thousands of cancer victims receive the help they need.
Mary Hardy and Kathy DeVoy have been volunteering for 23 years. Hardy serves as the solicitor for donations for the auction. As she puts it, she “begs” for money and items. Kathy coordinates invitations, ticket sales and tables.
Both women, like many of the other volunteers, have had family members diagnosed with cancer. For them, this is personal and is a way to give back to the community.
“It’s unreal how much money has been raised in this community,” Hardy said. “The community is so responsive.”
She also credited the volunteers — as did all the other volunteers Wyo4News talked with on Friday. All are complimentary of each other and the time they put in to help. Hardy noted some volunteers take off of work or take vacation time to come and help with the benefit.
DeVoy includes in her compliments the local students that help out, especially the GRHS Cheer Team. She also noted the event has really grown; this year 88 tables were reserved and the event has been sold out for over a month.
Teresa Warren has also put in 23 years as a volunteer. She is in charge of grant disbursements for the organization and helps with the Memory Wall. She explained the Memory Wall was created by Cindy Wilford as a memorial to those people who have died from cancer. “It has grown humongous,” she added.
Zach Gunyan helps out with tech and AV for the benefits. Ha believes CAC is a “really good organization” to volunteer for, especially since it is 100% volunteer and all the money raised can be used to help people.
Timmy Lew is in his third year of volunteering. He redesigned the organization’s website and also helps with technology. He is “very proud” that the organization is made up of 100% volunteers.
CAC accrues over 6,000 volunteer hours per year, Lew pointed out.
“This is such a great organization,” he said. “The money stays local, which is really amazing.”
Even more amazing is the fact that $5.5 million has been raised in this community, he added, noting that more than 1 in 20 people locally have received a grant from Cowboys Against Cancer. “Most people we help we won’t even meet,” Lew said.
This is the first year for Sue Kearns to volunteer. She said she ran into Parry some months ago and congratulated her on 25 years. Parry, in her usual fashion, asked Kearns if she wanted to volunteer. She did.
“It’s been fabulous. There’s so many talented people involved … I’ve totally enjoyed it,” Kearns said, who helped organize the donation baskets and is in charge of the high school volunteers.
Auction coordinator Geannie Berg has donated her services for 12 years. Berg — who volunteers in memory of her sister Cami Jo who died from cancer at age 4 — said over 400 auction donations were collected this year.
“I do it for my legacy and living through my sister,” she said.
Jordan Brady is with the Green River High School Wrestling Cheer Team. She said her coach has been involved with CAC for 11 years, and it is an organization she lies to be involved in.
The cheer team on Friday put 800 place settings on the tables. During the event they will seat people, hand out programs and service dinner.
Jaynie Welsh starting volunteering when she was 12 and is now in her tenth year. She said she makes and donates quilts to the organization and helps Kitty Mills coordinate the banquet.
Welsh said CAC is “so much more than the grants.” It’s also about the support network people gain when they apply for a grant. And she knows this because her grandfather passe away from cancer.
“It’s what keeps me coming back,” she said.
Beth Ice has been volunteering for 14 years and is proud to say she is the personal assistant to George Lemich, CAC vice president and auction officer. “He puts on an awesome show for Margaret,” she complimented Lemich.
Ice refers to herself as the “runner” for the event. She recalls one time when she put 203 miles on her car in one day — in town.
“This is the biggest event in Rock Springs,” she said. ” The dignitaries that attend is impressive.”
Kitty Mills and Dave Samson are two the many people who take time off and travel to volunteer at the CAC banquet. Mills has been involved for 13 years and serves as the banquet coordinator. She is a cancer survivor and thinks how less difficult it would have been for her to navigate through her care if CAC had been around when she was diagnosed.
“It’s worth my time and time is money. It’s worth all of this,” she said.
As banquet coordinator, she said she and the rest of the volunteers will be “food and happy ready” for Saturday’s festivities.
Samson came 1,300 miles from Texas to volunteer. He met Parry in 2003 when he worked for Schlumberger in Rock Springs, and he tried t make it to the banquet every year. In fact, he takes vacation time to attend. “Anything for any good cause,” he added.
If you would like to volunteer or are someone who could benefit from a Cowboys Against Cancer grant, please contact the organization at 307-382-9606.
For additional information about Cowboys Against Cancer visit their Facebook page or website cowboysagainstcancer.com.