What a difference a generation can make when it comes to cancer. Debbie Hermanson lost her dad to colon cancer when she was only two years old. He was 29.
Then her own bout with hereditary colon cancer came. It was treated and she survived. That was 30 years ago.
“They didn’t know what it was until it was too late for my dad,” she said. “They knew with me that they had to watch it. I had surgeries, and now they can control it with medication. It’s come so far, but we need a cure.”
Hermanson’s conviction that a cure needs to be found led her to be one of the founding members of the Isanti County Cancer Crusaders – a nonprofit organization that offers financial and practical help to families battling the disease.
Started in May of 2018, the organization takes the place of the county’s former American Cancer Society chapter that held a yearly Relay for Life until the group discovered none of its raised funds directly benefited area residents, but went to the national organization.
A core group stepped back and formed the independent nonprofit Crusaders. The group set forth organizing their own local fundraisers, including what was supposed to be an annual “Bowling for a Cure.” When the COVID pandemic hit, however, their event-based fundraising had to be put on hold. On Sunday, Oct. 10, at Junction Bowl in Isanti, the group is proud to restart their “Bowling for a Cure.” All funds support Isanti County residents, except for 20 percent that goes toward cancer research.
CANCER INSPIRES CONNECTION
The group’s secretary, Michelle Lucas, went through her own thyroid cancer diagnosis 16 years ago.
“My mom passed away from ovarian cancer,” she said. “There’s been a lot of cancer on her side of the family, my grandma, my aunts. … I just felt like mine was nothing like anybody else with what they had to go through. I was so blessed.”
In addition, another member of the Crusaders is currently being treated for lymphoma.
Knowing what families are facing has helped the group tailor their help to meet real needs. By simply filling out a form at either the Cambridge Medical Center or requesting one through email@example.com, people with a cancer diagnosis can receive a cash gift to put toward whatever needs they choose. Gifts average around $200, and requests can be made more than once.
Since its start, the organization has given financial gifts to around 37 people.
NOT ALL SUPPORT IS FINANCIAL
Although the bowling event is its main fundraiser, the group has bagged groceries at Cub Foods, had Culver’s designated donation nights, and even hosted a fundraising motorcycle run with Women on Wheels Motorcycle Club.
They work closely with Cambridge Medical Center, donating gift cards for gas or groceries for staff to give out to people receiving treatment.
“Our financial gal there will hand them out to whoever needs them,” Lucas said, “because a lot of people won’t ask.”
The Crusaders also come alongside families who are planning fundraising events.
“We’ll promote it on social media,” Lucas said, “or we donate a gift basket or something for their silent auction.”
Modeled on the Relay for Life’s “survivor’s reception,” the Crusaders have also held a Surviver’s Spaghetti Dinner in 2019 for those who’ve made it through cancer treatment – with around 75 in attendance.
STILL SEEKING BOWLERS
The Crusader’s last Bowling for the Cure raised around $7,000 when it was held in 2019 (it was canceled in 2020). So far this year, lane sponsorships by companies are at nearly $5,000. Sponsorships starting at $100 are still available.
And bowlers of all ages can just show up on Sunday from 12-3 p.m. at Junction Bowl in Isanti. Bowlers can play two games and rent shoes for $10. There will also be a 50/50 raffle and silent auction that end around 2:30 p.m., plus door prizes.
Halloween costumes are encouraged, but not required.
“My grandkids will be wearing Halloween pajamas when they come,” Lucas said. “We just want to make it fun.”
For information, visit Facebook page “Isanti County Cancer Crusaders” or call 763-444-7250.