Lauren Bodnar knows first-hand exactly how crucial Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana is to local cancer patients and their loved ones.
The 32-year-old Parkview Cancer Institute worker said while it was her first time participating in the Cancer Services Lapper on a recent brisk May morning, she was honored and proud to participate.
Held for more than 10 years as a way to raise money for Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana, the Lapper lets people either raise money on their own or form teams to bring in cash to sponsor their walking laps around the Brotherhood Office Park, located at 6316 Mutual Drive in Fort Wayne.
Even more extraordinary, the cancer services group is celebrating a big anniversary this year, according to Events and Marketing Coordinator, Keiara Carr.
“This year’s Lapper is particularly special, because it’s our 75th anniversary, and we’ve set this goal to raise $80,000” Carr said. “And the Lapper is our largest fundraiser of the year.”
So far – since March, through other fundraising – the group already has raised more than $67,000 of its goal.
“We’re just always so happy to see all the support,” Carr said. “The clients are here, the volunteers are here. It’s just a great communal experience together.”
Beginning in 1944, Cancer Services assists almost 4,000 people with cancer each year all over the 11 counties of Northeast Indiana. Initially, the group only provided transportation to and from medical appointments, as well as some financial assistance.
Then, the nonprofit began offering wigs to chemotherapy patients, as well as support groups for all cancer sufferers. These days, the organization has expanded their efforts to help provide everything from educational programs, to complimentary classes in massage, yoga, tai chi, and meditation. They also help by providing low-cost medical equipment, such as walkers and wheelchairs.
Sponsors for the Lapper included Kroger, Parkview Cancer Services, Fred Toegnes Shoes, Fort Wayne Medical Oncology, Brooks Construction, UPS, Anthem Health Care, Aunt Millies’ Bread, the Fort Wayne Police Department, Fort Wayne Federal Credit Union, Hires Auto Parts, and Pizza Hut.
Organizers expected about 500 people to turn out for the walk, and within about 10 minutes of its 9:00 a.m. starting time, more than 100 people already were crowding the office park parking lot, lining up to get registered and to receive their commemorative t-shirts.
A keynote speaker before the walk began, Malak Heiny, noted the importance of the day’s event.
“You always hear about how it takes a village to raise a child,” Heiny told the boisterous crowd between rounds of applause, “well, it also takes a village to support someone with cancer.”
Heiny, a 32-year-old attorney for the City of Fort Wayne, lost her father to lung cancer in 2016, and she said Cancer Services made that difficult time more bearable for her and her family. After he was diagnosed in 2014, the group provided her father and her family with various medical supplies they needed, even Ensure nutrition drink to help keep her Dad healthy – all at low to no cost, she said.
“They make it so easy,” Heiny said. “Because before you go through it, you really have no idea what it’s like to have to deal with cancer.”
For all the walkers, the event really was just about support – supporting Cancer Services, and supporting those battling the disease.
“I just want to be here to support the patients,” said Bodnar, who was walking with her husband and toddler son in a stroller. “We use Cancer Services almost every day (at Parkview), so they deserve my support.”
For more information about Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana, visit their website, cancer-services.org