Cancer Association of Auglaize County assists where big orgs. cannnot

Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This is part one of a four part series which will showcase different areas of a cancer diagnosis from support systems to those who receive a diagnosis and how such a diagnosis affects not only the person receiving it.

Tailgate for Cancer’s biggest fundraising event of the year is quickly approaching, and with that means several organizations will be receiving donations to help people in Auglaize County as they receive treatment to fight their cancer. One organization who will be receiving a donation has been around since 2001, but is still working on making their presence known to the community.
The Cancer Association of Auglaize County (CAAC) was started by Teresa Bungard, now a volunteer with the organization, and some of her friends while she was running a store that provided hats, wigs, bras and breast forms to cancer patients. According to the President of the Board of Directors Jo Ellison, she wanted to start a nonprofit after seeing a need in the community. Bungard approached members of the Cancer Association of Mercer County about how to get the ball rolling.
Since 2001, the organization has been helping people all over Auglaize County receive nutritional supplements (Boost, Ensure, Glycerna, etc.), provide hats and wigs, bras, breast forms and most popularly mile reimbursement to and from doctors offices for treatment.
“We offer 15 percent mileage reimbursement to and from — doesn’t make a difference where they are going,” said Office Manager Peg Oen. “I have client go to Illinois, I have clients getting ready to go to Indianapolis, Columbus, it doesn’t matter, we still give them 15 percent.”
The reimbursement is something that sets them apart from other cancer associations, Ellison and Oen said. According to Ellison, bigger association like the American Cancer Society offers rides services for patients, but those patients have to live within 40 miles of either the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus or the Cleveland Clinic.
For the CAAC, it doesn’t matter where someone wants to receive their treatment from, they will help any way they can.
They don’t work alone either. CAAC works with the Auglaize County Crippled Children and Adults (ACCCA) to help patients get the care they need, if CAAC doesn’t offer the service.
“I spent half the day on the phone the other day helping a client find a ride because she can no longer sit and drive and she needs help,” Oen said. “We can reimburse the 15 percent but I don’t have a car to take her in.”
She said she often calls ACCCA to see if they can help find a ride service for those who need it.
Oen, who started working with the cancer association in April, said she is working on learning about all the services available in the area so she can relay that information to those who come to her for help.
“This is something that is very important to me,” she said. “And I just love working with people, I truly love working with people. There is just no doubt about that one.”
There is no limit to how and who they can help. Their only requirements are: be a resident of Auglaize County and have a cancer diagnosis. The application is just as simple as well.
According to Oen, clients have to fill out a one page doctor’s form, and once that is approved they have access to all of the products and benefits the organization has to offer.
“We’re a very friendly place where you can come in and sit down and talk about whatever it is that you need to talk about,” Oen said. “You can come in and look at the shelves, plus we have lots of bins.”
One of the many items they have on their shelves is wigs. For those who lose their hair because of treatment, they can come in and select one of the styles of wigs they have in stock. If the client doesn’t see something they like, they can also look through the catalog they have and CAAC will put $50 toward the purchase of that wig.
Recognition is something the nonprofit has struggled with over the years. Recently they moved to their current location — 133 E. Spring St. in St. Marys — in hopes to make them easier to find.
According to Oen, they hoped moving downtown where they could put a big sign in the window stating what they were, would help them get some recognition for those who might need their services.
It worked a little bit, according to Ellison. When they were moving into the new building several community members stopped by to see what was moving in and often expressed relief that an organization like CAAC was coming to the area.
The problem was, CAAC has been around for 16 years, many just didn’t realize it.
Another way they are trying to garner more attention is through fundraising events, hosted not only by them but also sponsoring ones in schools around the county and in restaurants. Recently, they wrapped up Kicking Cancer’s Booty: Battle of the Businesses and started the Scrimmage of the Schools to help raise money. St. Marys Memorial High School, New Bremen High School, New Knoxville High School and more are participating.
During the business competition, Oen heard from Minster Bank about some younger community members who decided to donate.
“Two young people had a lemonade stand and they donated $124, they donated every penny they made at that lemonade stand to Auglaize County Cancer Association … That was so cool that two youngsters would do that,” she said. “I am totally amazed sometimes at what the capabilities of people are. That is something I will remember to my grave and I don’t know who they are, the banks not allowed to tell me.”
Donations are something they rely the most on in order to fund their service.
On their own last year, the CAAC only raised $644. This year they’ve been working to find new and innovative fundraisers to help them earn money to provide for patients in the area.
Tailgate for Cancer is one of their biggest contributors, but community members sometimes surprise them as well. Oen mentioned that at this year’s Shooting for a Cure, one of the winners reached into their prize money and made a donation to CAAC.
“Money is the big issue on what we can and cannot help with,” Ellison said. “We’ve tried to help with medical equipment along with what we already do. We used to help so much a month with prescription medication, we used to help with hotel rooms and stuff like that. The big thing is the money limitation.
“We have to look at it as if we do it for one client can we do it for all of our clients and are we going to be financially feasible and able to do that.”
Currently, CAAC has 83 clients who they assist.
For more information about CAAC and the services they provide call 419-300-3556 and they are on Facebook.