Local cancer foundation offers grants to patients in financial need
“We give patients hope. Sometimes we’re the only light they have in a dark and dreary journey.” Those words, spoken by board of directors chair Dr. Stacy Fischer at a recent fundraiser, best describe the mission of the Ray of Hope Cancer Foundation, a Denver nonprofit that provides financial assistance to Colorado cancer patients in need.
“The cost of treating cancer is astronomical,” says executive director Tiffani Lennon, “especially for those who live in rural areas and have to travel great distances for their medical care.”
Sometimes, bad luck follows the diagnosis. “We just had a patient who found that her expenses exceeded her income,” she says. “Then her house burned down. We gave her the money to get into secure housing.”
Lennon arrived at Ray of Hope from the University of Denver, where she was a professor of law and society, and another local nonprofit, where she was chief strategy officer. “When I was 20, I said that one day I would run a cancer foundation, and I could not have found a better one,” she says. “Something really special is going on at Ray of Hope Cancer Foundation.”
- In 2002, then-17-year- old Raymond Wentz arrived at Dr. David Schrier’s office, suffering from night sweats, fever and weight loss. Schrier, an oncologist with offices in Littleton, diagnosed non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma and started him on chemotherapy. Wentz and his older sister, Michelle, were students at Sheridan High School and working at King Soopers to buy food and pay the rent. Their mother had died and their father lived on the streets. One day, Wentz called Schrier’s office to say his temperature had spiked to 103. He was told to come in, but it took him four hours to get there because he had to ride a bicycle. Wentz was hospitalized for 60 days. When it became apparent he didn’t have long to live, Michelle told Schrier she wanted to take her brother home so he wouldn’t die in a hospital. Schrier was so moved that he established the Raymond Wentz Foundation, which has since distributed $4 million to 4,000 cancer patients in Colorado. Schrier has since taken a step back from the day-to-day work.
How it works
- Colorado cancer patients can apply for grants at the group’s website and are chosen by a committee that looks at medical, personal and financial situations. Grantees receive a one-time gift of $500 (adults) or $1,000 (pediatric patients). Most patients use it for every- day expenses and rides to appointments.
How you can help
- Organize a fundraiser; help at the Colfax Marathon or the foundation’s wine tasting; offer marketing or information technology skills; serve on the grants committee; or “let us know what you have to offer.”
- Willa’s Wheels, the annual pledge-gathering event started by the parents of Willa Fischer, who died of cancer in 2008, has raised $577,300 for the foundation. It is open to anyone who sets a goal to raise at least $250 by taking part in a bicycle ride, run or triathlon between March and October of each year. The foundation also partners with the Colfax Marathon, held May 19– 20 this year. Participants can raise money for any of the race’s 200-some charity partners.