Our mission: to educate resident in LaPlata, San Juan and Archuletta counties, about cancers and their prevention and/or early detection; to provide non-medical emergency funding to individuals in treatment of cancers; and to collaborate with other organizations and groups that offer assistance and financial support to those impacted by cancer
Our Story: The Cancer Coalition of Southwest Colorado (formerly known as the “Women’s Health” and “Health” Coalition of Southwest Colorado) has been around for almost 20 years, though that wasn’t always its name. In 1995 two families that had experienced death of a family member to breast cancer wanted to remember their loved ones by honoring them each year with a walk called “Journey of Hope.” The purpose was to raise funds to assist women with the expenses of mammograms, particularly those women unable to afford the screening. A Breast Health Task Force was formed with the help of the American Cancer Society (ACS). Annually the walk drew community support, and funds raised served a need not met in other ways. That fund still exists, and the walk continues. Eventually the task force transitioned from an ACS supported group to a local / community based task force focusing on education.
◊ The task force, though small in number, began offering annual educational luncheons featuring speakers who shared information about breast cancer and early detection. Support of the Journey of Hope walk continues, however, the first “Pink Ribbon Event” was held to celebrate women in the community who had triumphed over breast cancer. The event was a success and has continued for ten years as a fundraiser and celebration. The Coalition quickly decided that any funds raised at the October Pink Ribbon events could assist women in breast cancer treatment with non-medical expenses.
◊ As popularity and support of pink ribbon events grew, grants were given to individuals in any cancer treatment who needed help with non-medical expenses. The Coalition volunteers did not want to form another federal non-profit organization, though it did become recognized as a legal entity in the State of Colorado. Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado, a local foundation that offers fiscal management to groups such as ours, offered to be the Coalition’s fiscal sponsor. That solved many problems for a group of volunteers that only wanted to help cancer patients. Working with the Cancer Resource Center at the Durango Cancer Center, an application process was devised, and grants in the amount of $500 for non-medical expenses were given.
◊ Only six grants were given in the first year, but as time passed, our mission (to educate residents in surrounding communities about cancers and their prevention and/or early detection; to provide non-medical emergency funding to individuals in treatment for cancers; and to promote other sources of financial aid for individuals unable to afford screenings) gained the attention of the greater community. One special group under the leadership of Volleyball Coach Terene Foutz stepped forward to help. A program called “Pink Digs for the Cure” was born, and young high school volleyball players, beginning in 2008 began raising funds for the grants. This additional support allowed us to expand our services, offering gas vouchers for travel to treatment, another way to assist area residents who faced weeks of travel for radiation or chemo therapy at the Durango Cancer Center. That support continues annually, with BP American Production Company as the star supporter of the volleyball games.
◊ By 2013 we were distributing annually as much as $30,000 in grants and gas cards to individuals in cancer treatment. This has been the result of dedicated volunteers with no paid staff to assist other than the kind sponsorship of the Community Foundation. Grants of financial aid are now given to men and women for all cancers.
◊ In 2014, recognizing that perhaps a name change would allow men to know the organization needed membership from the male population, a name change was made again. And now, in 2017, the name is changing from the Health Coalition of SW Colorado to the Cancer Coalition of SW Colorado (CCSW) to better reflect the population we serve. Today CCSW believes it has a vital mission to help cancer patients. It welcomes financial aid from businesses and individuals. It welcomes area residents willing to give their time to its mission and become members. It believes “it takes a community to defeat cancer and assure those in treatment that we believe in their wholeness and wellbeing.”