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Back in 2013 a small group of breast cancer survivors, many of whom were diagnosed through mammography, were discussing ways to make sure that all women had access to these health services without worrying about the cost. That conversation became the start of Party in Pink, an annual fundraiser to support Gifts of Hope.

Gifts of Hope is a program through the Virginia Gay Hospital Foundation. Virginia Gay Hospital and it's family medical clinics in Atkins, Urbana, Van Horne and Vinton. Gifts of Hope helps women in Benton County afford health services related to cancer diagnostics and treatment. In addition, it provides an opportunity to remind friends and neighbors of how truly critical early detection is in surviving a breast cancer diagnosis.

"The first year we kept asking ourselves, do we know what we are doing?" recalls Deb Wilberg. She is one of the original planning members and still very active on the Party in Pink planning committee. "Actually, we didn't! If you attended our first event, you might recall that we were timing racers with volunteers who had stop watches! We were hoping for 100 racers; we had over 400! We could never have anticipated the support that Vinton and the surrounding communities showed us."

Celebrating its tenth year, Party in Pink has seen a few improvements including chipped timing for all the participants. Registrants can choose how they'd like to participate with both in-person and virtual options available. Racers may choose a Kid's Fun Run, 1-mile, 5K or a 10K route.

What hasn't changed in ten years is the community support. A letter from the first organizing committee read, "Please find it in your heart to help local women: mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunts and friends. Benton County Survivors hope to create a special day to recognize amazing women who fight, survive and die from breast cancer. Breast cancer has a 98% survival rate if caught in early stages followed by prescribed treatment. Treatment can be started after early detection as a result of having mammograms."

That original letter was signed by committee members Lisa Staab, Angie Tharp, Janet Woodhouse, Lu Karr, Deb Wilberg and Charlotta Toth-Fisher. Of those six members, five are still very much active breast cancer survivors. Charlotta Toth-Fisher passed away in October, 2018.

Breast cancer death rates for women in the U.S. are higher than those for any other cancer besides lung cancer. About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations resulting from the aging process and life in general rather than inherited mutations. (source: www.breastcancer.org) It's essential to discuss your health concerns with your primary care provider and make time for recommended screenings, including mammograms, pelvic exams, and pap smears.

If you or someone you know needs assistance through Gifts of Hope for those types of services, please discuss it with a Virginia Gay Family Medical Clinic primary care provider in Atkins, Urbana, Van Horne, or Vinton. No application is needed. Just communicate the need for assistance in paying for breast cancer diagnosis or treatment services.

Encourage the women in your life to schedule regular health screenings including mammograms. And, consider supporting those who may need financial assistance by participating or donating to this year's fundraising efforts for Gifts of Hope.

Registration continues for the Tenth Annual Party in Pink. This year's theme is Hope Runs Pink. The event is scheduled for Friday, June 17, at Vinton's Riverside Park with registration open right up to race time. For complete details and race times, follow this link: bit.ly/partyinpink2022.

Learn more about Gifts of Hope and the Virginia Gay Hospital Health Care Foundation at www.myvgh.org/vgh-foundation/gifts-of-hope/.org. Questions regarding the Party in Pink 5K event or contributions to the Gifts of Hope fund should be directed to Robin Martin by phone at 319-472-6375 or by email at rmartin@vghinc.com.

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