Weatherford Democrat

October 29, 2012

Careity benefits from luncheon, helps locally

Margarita Venegas

PARKER COUNTY — Every year, weeks before the event, the Pink Luncheon sells out. And, every year, those in attendance gather and comment about how a bigger venue in Weatherford would surely continue to sell out — it seems no matter how many seats are offered, there are plenty who want to attend the luncheon.

The repertoire is funny as the hosts banter back-and-forth, the buffet food lines move quickly, there are goodie bags filled with freebies and raffle items to win — and it’s all topped off with a pink cupcake for dessert.

But, beyond the fun and jokes, beyond the luncheon with friends and the raffle winners joy there is a deeper purpose that makes the event popular — the money raised by the Parker County Health Foundation goes into a grant given to Careity Foundation and that money stays here in Parker County to help women in all stages of breast health care.

A local connection

Careity Foundation founders Lyn Walsh and Beverly Branch have a particular interest in Parker County because they live here. The foundation is based here (though the organization’s P.O. Box is technically in Fort Worth). Branch’s family has been in Parker County for more than 100 years. Walsh emphasized the importance of using funds raised in a community to help people in that community. Careity does the same with the other donations that come in from neighboring counties where help is also provided.  

The money that Careity gets from the PCHF grant — which was about $60,000 this year — goes to help women in Parker County with a variety of services. It can be as simple as a yearly mammogram check-up. But, if a woman has a lump and, therefore, needs a diagnostic mammogram, it can be more complex — getting her to a doctor, who then must write her a prescription for the specialty mammogram and going to see a radiologist for that mammogram. There may be a follow up biopsy — and there are various types of biopsies, which might require more doctor visits. If cancer is found, then there is the continuing care — chemo, radiation, nutritional supplements, doctor’s visits.

The type of women they see in need aren’t just women who are out of work. There are those who are underinsured or who can’t meet their insurance’s deductible, Walsh and Branch said. However, any women who comes to Careity needing help will receive it.

“We don’t ask questions,” Walsh said.

In addition to the PCHF grant from the Pink Luncheon, the pair started a fund raiser in May — Hats off to Heroes — which also stipulates funds go directly to Parker County residents’ care. Money from that event not only helped pay for mammograms and biopsies, but helped Careity hire a chaplain, to pay for gas cards to allow cancer patients to get to and from appointments and other necessities, said Walsh. The money benefited the Careity Breast Care Center in Weatherford. Careity Foundation, along with the Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders, Dr. Robyn Young, Dr. Amy Gunter, Dr. Denise Wise and Solis Women’s Health worked together to open the center for Parker County residents.

A different vision

Walsh and Branch have been raising funds to help charity for over 25 years. In the early years, they worked to raise funds for another organization. The Celebrity Cutting event was the major fund raiser they used.

Every year the World Championship Futurity for horse cutting is held in Fort Worth at the Will Rogers Coliseum. The National Cutting Horse Association donates one night to the Celebrity Cutting event, in which proceeds go to charity. In the beginning, that money was given to the other organization, Walsh said, but then those who helped with the Celebrity Cutting event wondered why she and Branch didn’t start their own non-profit group. The pair wondered that themselves.

They had different ideas of what they would like to do with the funds they raised. Many charities stick to one “group” — for example, adults with cancer or children’s disorders. For Walsh and Branch, they wanted to be able to serve more people with various types of services.

While Celebrity Cutting will celebrate its 18th year Dec. 7 at the Futurity in Fort Worth, Careity celebrates its 16th year this year.

Seven years ago, the pair started Branded, another fund raising event. The money from that event helps with Careity’s Pediatric Palliative Care program, which helps with symptom and pain management of life-threatening childhood illnesses.

“The program was brought here because of our funding,” said Branch.

And, the program continues to be maintained with Careity’s help. Cook Children’s Hospital was able to hire the program’s physician director and, since then, funding from Careity has allowed the hospital to hire five new care providers. The funds from Careity do not go to hire administrative positions, Walsh noted.

“It’s all for patient care,” she said of where Careity’s money goes.

In addition to services, gas cards and nutritional supplements, money also goes to psychotherapy. There are many women who tell the story of having found a lump in their breast and finding that their husbands can’t deal with the process, the pair said. These women may end up fighting cancer, with no husband to support them, with no job because they are out for weeks, if not months at a time, and still needing to feed and support their children. The counseling services are there to help them work through the trauma of what they experience. Careity also offers oncology massage therapy and acupuncture, Walsh said, which often helps those going through chemo or radiation deal with pain and nausea from the treatments.

Having compassion

When Walsh was 7, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She was young — but in those days there weren’t a lot of services to help guide her through the process, much less any help offered to Walsh as a child, confused and scared about what was happening.

Her mother survived, and lived another 45 years, but the experience stuck with Walsh all her life. She not only knew she had to do something to help others, she knew — she still knows — the pain, confusion and emotional roller coaster of what they are going through.

“Lyn is a very compassionate person,” Branch said.

Having worked with Walsh in the fund raising, Branch has developed that side of herself, as well.

“I have a real empathy toward people who are hurting,” she said.

Because of that, the pair don’t just emphasize fund raising, they noted. They attend a variety of events to talk about Careity — so that people know that help is available. One of the big things they want to emphasize is that people are getting the care and help they need. Money donated to Careity goes to help people, not just to a national organization or studies. It stays here, it helps people here, Walsh said.

“We’re not out there just looking for funds all the time,” Walsh said.

In trying to raise the public’s awareness, Walsh and Branch say they hope to ensure that everyone who needs help knows they can receive it. Because Careity helps connect patients with doctors and services, there are times when patients don’t even realize that Careity is behind the funding of their care. But, then again, there are groups to which they speak where people are very aware.

“There are times when we go to an event and someone will say, ‘Careity was there, helping me.’ That’s what’s very rewarding about what we do,” Branch said.