Community unites to combat cancer

Several Minot charities assembled at the Magic City Harley-Davidson (formerly Rough Riders) last Friday with the single purpose of combating cancer.

Dave Helland, a territory representative of Wilbur-Ellis, donated $1,200 to Kickstands for Cancer, a group which raises money for cancer treatment through motorcycle-related rides and events. Formerly the Mighty Mouse River Run, Kickstands for Cancer held its second charitable run Sept. 24 of last year.

With around 1.64 million new cases reported in the United States last year alone, it is difficult to find someone whose life hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way. Helland’s wife Deb is currently undergoing her second bout with the disease.

“Cancer is important to us because my brother and sister have also had it. It’s in my family, in my wife’s family; it’s hit us all pretty hard,” Dave Helland said.

Along with her treatment, Deb is an employee of Scheels Sporting Goods, acts as a town ambassador for the Hess Corporation and volunteers her time assisting Blair Bloms, a Bishop Ryan student left disabled after a school van overturned in May 2004.

Kickstands chairman Cory Schmaltz loves what his group does.

“It’s a lot of fun, what we’re doing,” he said, going on to describe the 130 or so bikes gathered at the latest Velva run.

Participants ride together, then enjoy each other’s company at a poker tournament afterwards, where they raise most of their money. The group will get together again this year, tentatively planning to hold a two-day event the weekend of Sept. 14-15.

“All bikes are welcome, not just Harleys. I myself drive a Honda trike,” Schmaltz said with a laugh.

The donation brings the group’s most recent collection to around $6,000, which they will in turn forward to Tough Enough to Wear Pink. Minot’s Tough Enough chapter is in its sixth year of operation, collaborating with other groups such as Y’s Men’s Rodeo, Kickstands for Cancer and Minot Bands Together.

Cancer survivor and Tough Enough board member Connie Sunby is pleased to help others facing the disease.

“It’s quite amazing to meet some of those people. They’re just all so appreciative of the help they are getting,” she said.

Tough Enough puts on its rodeo every October, to coincide with National Breas Cancer Awareness Month. Between them the groups raised $53,000 last year, bringing their six-year total to more than $307,000 for Trinity Health’s cancer exercise rehabilitation program at the Minot Family YMCA.

Also present was Kim Whittemore of Minot Bands Together, which organizes concerts for charitable purposes.

“It’s basically a concert event that reunites local bands from the 80s and 90s,” Whittemore said.

She’s one of the group’s three co-chairs, but is quick to add: “I’m not in charge. I just get to be the mouthpiece.”

The MBT has been active for five years and, after donating to a kidney foundation the first year, has been focused exclusively on raising money for cancer. Like the others present at Friday’s donation, the MBT gives its raisings to Trinity Health’s cancer exercise rehabilitation program at the Minot Family YMCA.

Trinity Hospital’s exercise physiology coordinator Russell Gust helped create the program six years ago, in order to help cancer patients get the exercise they need to get through the often physically-taxing treatments. So far it has been a success, and Gust is pleased to be a part of it.

“It’s the most rewarding part of my job,” he said. “A lot of patients come through treatment fatigued and worn out, and the exercise gives them the opportunity to battle their fatigue. It enables active participation in their treatment, it’s empowering.”

In addition to weekly or sometimes bi- and tri-weekly sessions, depending on the patient’s ability and state of health, the program also pays for a 3-month membership with the YMCA for its participants. The program is entirely funded by donations, much of it garnered by fundraising organizations like Tough Enough to Wear Pink.

“All these events really help offset costs. Without ’em we wouldn’t even come close” to raising as much money as they have done, said Paul Kramer, chief committee member with the Y’s Men’s Rodeo.

Hosting rodeos locally for the past 59 years, Y’s Men’s has been raising money for cancer treatment through Tough Enough for the past six years.