Hope Comes in All Colors

“Hope comes in all colors” by Cherek Elsasser (Papillion-La Vista High School)

When Michelle Mathison asked her classes who has been or knew someone that has been affected by cancer, there was not a single student who didn’t raise their hand. The undeniable truth is that cancer touches thousands of lives every day.  According to the American Cancer Society, in Nebraska alone there were an estimated 9,430 new cases of cancer in the year 2011. Nationally, the number was approximately 1,596,670.

Six years ago Mathison realized the toll cancer had taken on the students at Papillion-La Vista High School. She was motivated to make a change and formed the fundraiser “Color of Hope.”  Color of Hope is a fundraiser that sells t-shirts to support and raise awareness about cancer.

 “Color of Hope was originally created to support breast cancer, but after years passed I began to realize that there were far more forms of cancer that were affecting people,” Mathison said.

The first four years of the fundraiser put complete emphasis on breast cancer. They sold hundreds of pink shirts and made people aware of the effects of breast cancer.  However, last year Mathison started selling different colors of shirts to support several types of cancer.

“I thought to myself why should the fundraiser only support breast cancer when there are so many other kinds (of cancer) that exist and impact peoples lives every day,” Mathison said. “This year we will be selling nine different shirts, each with a different color. Every color represents one or more types of cancer.”

The t-shirts cost ten dollars and the proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society in order to try and create a cure for cancer.  T-shirts were also given out to the kids at the cheer clinic as a way to raise awareness, not only in the school, but throughout the community.  Everyone who owned a shirt was encouraged to attend the PLHS basketball games on February 4th and show support by wearing the shirts.

For two PLHS students, Color of Hope has helped them cope with losses.  Earlier in the school year, junior Gabe Hoins supported his aunt by wearing a towel with her name on it.

“My aunt died of cancer when she was only twenty-eight years old. She battled cancer for five years,” Hoins said. “Cancer has had such a big effect on myself and my family. Color of Hope really makes me feel better because it shows how many people are dedicated to finding a cure for cancer.”

Hoins is not the only student who is grateful for Color of Hope.  In October of 2010, Randy Cahill, father of seven including junior Karolyn Cahill, was diagnosed with cancer.  “My dad was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer a few years ago,” Cahill said. “It was so surreal when we found out. It was hard to live with the fact that my own father was sick, but after a while it made us all stronger and it made us appreciate every second we have together.”

Not only has Color of Hope encouraged Cahill, but the school supported the family in other ways as well.  “The support around the school has been so great. They sold shirts that specifically supported my dad. The basketball players all wore gray to support my dad. Seeing everyone come together to help us has really helped me and my family to get through this,” Cahill said.

The effect cancer has on everyone is unbelievable. Color of Hope gives many people a positive outlook and faith. Show your support and contribute to the cause.

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Omaha Woman Receives Prestigious Terese Lasser Award for Commitment to Breast Cancer Support Program

Sandra Wolff of Omaha was recently recognized with the prestigious Terese Lasser Award for her outstanding contributions to the Reach to Recovery program.  The award may be presented by each state in the High Plains Division each year and is awarded based on compliance with Reach to Recovery policies, feedback from those interacting with the volunteer and impact on their communities.

Wolff has personally met with many newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and coordinates all Reach to Recovery referrals in her role as a Registered Nurse with Methodist Health System.  Her work as coordinator for the Reach to Recovery program in Omaha is instrumental in matching women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer to trained volunteers who have been through similar diagnosis for support.

“Sandra has made great effort to really know the Reach to Recovery volunteers and does an exceptional job of matching patients with volunteers,” commented Kate Oelke Turner, Community Manager for the American Cancer Society.  “She does an amazing job of exhibiting warmth and kindness while at the same time being exceptionally professional in all circumstances.  She really is a treasure to work with.

The award honors Terese Lasser.  Following her own breast cancer experience in 1952, Lasser began the Reach to Recovery (RTR) Program.  In 1969, the program was adopted by the American Cancer Society as one of its nationwide programs.  With its implementation, the American Cancer Society sought to achieve several long-term goals through this program.  These goals are: to provide increased hope for long-term survival to breast cancer patients through information and support; to provide increased confidence in treatment decision making to breast cancer patients; to encourage breast cancer patients to turn to the American Cancer Society throughout their cancer experience; to generate support for the RTR program from health care providers; and to improve the quality of life of individuals affected by the breast cancer experience.

(Photo l to r: ACS Regional Vice President Joy King, Sandra Wolff, ACS Community Manager Kate Oelke Turner)

American Cancer Society Recognizes Volunteers from the Nebraska Region

In a reception featuring nearly 100 volunteers from all corners of Nebraska, the American Cancer Society recognized its volunteer leadership in the second-annual ACS Volunteer Recognition Celebration at the Cornhusker Marriott on Sunday.

Among the award winners was the American Cancer Society’s 2010 Volunteer of the Year, Karrie Otoupal of York.  As Oncology Director at York General Hospital, Karrie has assisted women by providing them with wigs, turbans, breast prosthesis, bras and other items free of charge in an appearance center that she helped to implement in York.  She works with the local Look Good…Feel Better program and makes sure patients have the information they need by distributing the American Cancer Society’s Personal Health Manager to those who are newly diagnosed.  She facilitates the I Can Cope program, A Time to Heal program, a breast cancer support group and cancer support group.  She helps to recruit Reach to Recovery volunteers, promotes referrals to that program and was instrumental in the development of Road to Recovery in her community.

Otoupal has been the Chair of the York County Relay For Life for five years and recruits local volunteers for the ACS Cancer Action Network and other ACS programs as well.  She has attended the High Plains Division Relay Summit in Dallas and brings back what she has learned and shares her leadership skills by facilitating at the Nebraska Relay Summit.

Along with the Volunteer of the Year Award, the Society recognized several companies, media outlets and individuals for their part in the fight against cancer.  Among those honored were Andrea Wells of Omaha who received the Development Partner of the Year award, Kristi Perrotto of Lincoln who received the Mission Delivery Partner of the Year award, the Norfolk Daily News which was named Media Partner of the Year, Bob Scriven of Kearney who was honored with the Service to Advocacy Award and Jackie Whelan of Omaha who earned Youth Volunteer of the Year honors.

The afternoon event tied in a research theme to display the American Cancer Society’s role in finding cures over the past 40 years and into the future.  The Society’s 2010 accomplishments were shared by Charlotte Burke of Lincoln, who is serving as the chair of the ACS High Plains Board of Directors and keynote addresses were delivered by Amy Geschwender of Lincoln who is a cancer survivor and a stakeholder for the American Cancer Society’s research program, as well as by Dr. Greg Oakley of Lincoln who is conducting ACS funded research for the University of Nebraska Medical Center at the College of Dentistry in Lincoln.  Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center was a presenting sponsor for this event.

Awards Presented:

Volunteer of the Year – Karrie Otoupal (York)

Youth Volunteer of the Year – Jackie Whelan (Omaha)

Community Development Partner of the Year – Andrea Wells (Omaha – Pictured Below with Joy King – Regional Vice President of the American Cancer Society)

Mission Delivery Partner of the Year – Kristi Perrotto (Lincoln – Pictured Below with Joy King – Regional Vice President of the American Cancer Society)


Media Partner of the Year – Norfolk Daily News (Norfolk)

Service to Advocacy Award – Bob Scriven (Kearney – Pictured Below with Joy King – Regional Vice President of the American Cancer Society)


Spirit of Hope – for in-kind donations from media – Broadcast House (Lincoln), Clear Channel Communications (Omaha), KOLN/KGIN-TV (Lincoln), Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln), Norfolk Daily News (Norfolk), NRG Media (Kearney), NTV (Axtell), Three Eagles Communications (Columbus), Time Warner Cable (Lincoln), WJAG/KEXL-Radio (Norfolk)
Society Awards – for company donations of more than $10,000 – Alegent Health, American Family Insurance, The Gardner Foundation, Hockenbergs, Nebraska Cancer Specialists, Runza Restaurants, St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center.
Visionaries Awards – for company donations of more than $25,000 – Beckton Dickenson, The Lincoln Stars Hockey Team, Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center.
Sunrise Award for the Look Good…Feel Better program – Marie Nordboe (Fremont)