After witnessing the popularity of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that is sweeping the world, Mercy Independence Laboratory co-worker Jessica King began to think about how to design a local challenge that might benefit individuals right here at home.
“Several of us co-workers had been nominated for the ice bucket challenge,” King said. “But we recognized there is a lot of need right here in Independence, and we wanted to do something that would be meaningful to our patients at Mercy. I thought about our Cancer Center and thought surely we could come up with a way to raise money and awareness that would have local impact.”
After a little brainstorming, Mercy co-workers established the “Pink Slime Challenge.” The challenge calls for participants to pledge a $10 donation to the Mercy Health Foundation to support the Cancer Center. The only other rule? They have to get messy.
Joanne Smith, Mercy’s Director of Development and Marketing/Communications, explained the challenge is very versatile.
“Pink slime can be fashioned out of almost anything,” she said. “Gelatin, shaving cream, whipped topping, shampoo…you name it. And you can do almost anything with it. You can dump it, sit in it, slide through it, spray it from a water gun or deliver it like a pie in the face. The fun possibilities are endless.”
Mercy kicked off the Pink Slime Challenge yesterday with a pie in the face for Dr. Phu Truong, oncologist with the Cancer Center of Kansas, based in Wichita, who serves the satellite cancer center in Independence.
“Dr. Truong was in town for his weekly visits with local cancer patients, and he saw 30 patients yesterday,” Smith explained. “That number gives you an idea of how prevalent the disease is in our area and how great the need is for services.”
Smith said the local center sees approximately five new patients every week and provides 20-40 weekly chemotherapy treatments, medication injections and infusions. The center was renovated a few years ago thanks to a fund-raising campaign by the Mercy Health Foundation that generated in excess of $100,000. Since the completion of the renovation project, current fund-raising efforts support the special needs of patients in the center.
“Cancer does not discriminate based on socio-economic status, and the diagnosis can create a significant financial hardship for patients and their families, particularly when they are unable to work and must travel to and from their treatments or to out-of-town appointments with specialists,” Smith explained. “Funds we raise today can help purchase things like fuel gift cards for patients in need.
“The foundation also uses the funding to help fulfill special ‘wishes’ for patients whose recovery and future are uncertain.”
Smith explained that earlier this summer, the foundation and other community donors pitched in to send a 42-year-old patient on her first “real date,” complete with makeover, clothing, dinner, movie, photography and limo ride. The long-time patient had battled various forms of cancer for years and had begun her eighth treatment regimen at the time.
“Our patients and our Cancer Center co-workers sort of become like family,” Smith said. “Patients spend a lot of time with us in treatment, and we learn a lot about their personal lives – their hopes, dreams, wishes for things they’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance. It’s very gratifying to know the foundation can help create a little joy at a difficult time in their lives.”
Videos of Mercy’s Pink Slime Challenge events – including Dr. Truong’s kick-off - are being posted on the Mercy Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mercyhealth. Community members and organizations are encouraged to devise their own creative, safe and tasteful challenges, Smith said, and share them on the page.
Gifts to the Mercy Health Foundation to support the Cancer Center may be made online at www.mercy.net/independenceks/giving; by phone at 620-332-3248; or my mail to Mercy Health Foundation, 800 W. Myrtle, Independence, KS 67301.
In coordination with the Pink Slime Challenge, the foundation also is helping to sponsor “Dig Pink” night for cancer awareness at the home matches of the Independence High School junior varsity and varsity volleyball teams on Tuesday, Sept. 16, beginning at 5 p.m. at the IHS gymnasium. The volleyball players and coaches will be outfitted in pink T-shirts, and the team has sold additional shirts for fans as a fund-raiser to support the Cancer Center.