Article from The Times News – http://www.thetimesnews.com/entertainment/20170611/vacation-from-cancer
Little Pink Houses of Hope, an N.C.-founded charity that provides free retreats for breast cancer patients and their families, is reaching out to Ellen DeGeneres for a boost.
Sandy Ellington-Graves, a realtor with Allen Tate Realtors in Burlington and one of the organization’s VolunSTARS, announced the campaign to get a spot on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” with a video of volunteers jumping into a fountain in Arizona during their Scottsdale retreat last month.
Next on the list is a flash mob, which she hopes will appeal to the host’s love of dancing, and perhaps her emotions.
At 16, DeGeneres helped her mother battle the disease. Now in her late 50s and having weathered a cancer scare herself, the host has done numerous segments on Breast Cancer Awareness month, talking about how it’s affected her life and what women can do to detect it early.
Ellington-Graves says DeGeneres would be crucial in helping them raise awareness, and funding, to expand the program, which has grown exponentially since it was founded in 2009 by Jeanine Patten-Coble, a breast cancer survivor herself.
The program that started originally with a few donated houses on the N.C. coast, providing a scenic getaway for both men and woman undergoing treatment, has become a nationwide movement in eight different states serving 140 families per year.
However, with close to 1,600 applications coming in, the organization hopes to expand to be able to assist more people.
“To see them show up on Sunday and then by Wednesday and Thursday you’ve seen them relax, you’ve seen the burden lifted, you’ve seen them laugh, you’ve seen them just enjoy life and they’ve gotten a vacation, literally, from cancer,” Ellington-Graves said. “There are no doctor’s appointments, no chemo, no stress, no bills. You’re there to relax and reconnect and just live.”
Ellington-Graves began volunteering with the organization about four years ago, and will be taking part in the seventh annual “Dancing with the Little Pink Stars” fundraiser on Oct. 7.
From now until then, she’s working toward a hefty fundraising goal of $150,000, 90 percent of which will go to programs. As of Tuesday, she’d raised just over $30,000.
If she meets or exceeds that goal, she’s getting a pink Mohawk to celebrate. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement.
Kathy Gates, program relations director, says she feels like she works for Publisher’s Clearing House.
There are tears, smiles, and endless gratitude when she contacts families to tell them they’ve been awarded a retreat, and those moments are the result of extreme generosity.
“Without the communities, we couldn’t do what we do. The property is donated, meals are donated, so many things come together. A retreat that would cost on average $5,000 to $7,500 per family, out of our budget costs about $563 per family,” Gates said. “It’s an amazing organization in that you have a renewed sense of gratitude for people and their hearts for other people, and then you get to see it in the families as they partake and then they’re awed by the same thing, and then the communities are like, ‘Wow, we just did something wonderful here.’ ”
With DeGeneres’s help, Ellington-Graves and Gates hope that generosity will see them through the next phase, and help them make an even bigger impact on those who need it most.
Reporter Jessica Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 336-506-3046. Follow her on Twitter at @jessicawtn.