High Country Breast Cancer Foundation donates all proceeds to support local families

Terri+Brown+%28left%29%2C+Allyson+Medlin+%28center%29+and+Kate+Fersinger+%28right%29+pose+at+the+annual+Strength+in+Pink+run+hosted+by+the+High+Country+Breast+Cancer+Foundation+last+year.

Terri Brown (left), Allyson Medlin (center) and Kate Fersinger (right) pose at the annual Strength in Pink run hosted by the High Country Breast Cancer Foundation last year.

Laura Boaggio, Reporter

High Country Breast Cancer Foundation is a non profit created to support breast cancer patients, survivors and their families in the High Country of North Carolina.

In 2017, Irene Sawyer founded HCBCF because she felt the need to give back to breast cancer patients that came before her. Many of those individuals had undergone traumatic treatments such as unprofessional chemotherapy, Sawyer said.

“I felt a need to honor people who came before me but also to help future people,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer said another reason she started the foundation was to create an organization that gave all  proceeds back to the community. All of the money raised by HCBCF goes directly to those affected by breast cancer, and Sawyer pays for additional event fees out of pocket.

Terry Brown, secretary of HCBCF, said there are around 10 members who all work on a volunteer basis.

When deciding how to support someone with breast cancer, HCBCF speaks with individuals and their families instead of assuming what is best for them.

“We talk to the patients directly and we ask the patients, ‘What do you need?’” Sawyer said.

Sawyer said there was a family  in the High Country, that that said what was most important to them was spending time with their children. The family had fond memories of going to Tweetsie Railroad, so HCBCF supplied the family with season tickets to Tweetsie.

Another breast cancer patient who lost her battle recently was the mother of two girls. HCBCF provided the family with meals. The organization also raised money and donated to a college fund that the father had set up for the two girls, Sawyer said.

Sawyer is involved in the Ashe, Avery, Boone and Blowing Rock Chambers of Commerce. Those connections have helped her find sponsors since the inception of the organization. Yet, a lot of community outreach has been the result of cold calling.

“Basically all of us just go out and we talk to people we know,” Brown said.

However, Sawyer said this year community members are reaching out to the organization, which is an accomplishment for the group.

“We’re growing like crazy,” Sawyer said.

Brown said members work with A Perfect Fit, which sells different supplies for breast cancer patients, such as wigs and clothing.

“If someone can’t afford a wig or anything, there are programs in the state where they can get funds, but we can back them up,” Brown said.

Be Natural Market has been one of HCBCF’s strongest sponsors, Sawyer said. Several breast cancer patients who needed health-related items such as supplements, vitamins or even organic food, were provided items free of charge.

Be Natural Market also runs a “round-up program” through which customers can round up their purchase to the nearest dollar to support a local cause. Be Natural Market is donating money from the round-up program to HCBCF during October,.

Sawyer said the organization is planning activities with Horse Helpers of the High Country, a group that rescues and cares for abused and neglected horses.

The organization also intends to provide a fly-fishing course, which can help ease lymphedema, a swelling in the arms and upper body that can be caused by breast cancer.

A website format that will better direct patients to preferred providers is in the works. Sawyer said patients will be able to “go to the website and see what you need.”

HCBCF is also involved in the Kilograms for Mammograms Breast Cancer Event that took place Sunday. This fitness-based event raised money to support individuals struggling with the cost barrier of mammograms. All of the proceeds went to the Wilma Redmond Mammography Fund, according to the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System website.

The group also has a partnership with Zeta Tau Alpha, a sorority at App State that promotes breast cancer education and awareness.

“They come and help us at events, we sponsor different things, and we march in all the parades,” Brown said.

The organization’s biggest fundraiser is the 5K Walk/Run for Breast Cancer, which will be held Oct. 27 in Blowing Rock. This will be the second annual event.

“It’s really a festival,” Sawyer said. “We also have balloon animals, soda booths, free food and the App State women’s basketball team.”

Fees for the 5K, or fees for any HCBCF event, are paid for personally by Sawyer, so she does not have to take money from the foundation.

Story by Laura Boaggio

Photo courtesy of the High Country Breast Cancer Foundation

Featured Photo Caption: Terri Brown (left), Allyson Medlin (center) and Kate Fersinger (right) pose at the annual Strength in Pink run hosted by the High Country Breast Cancer Foundation last year.