Cary News

Caring Community Foundation hopes fundraiser takes off like Bed Zeppelin

Stephen Paul, left, and Matt Epstein push “Bed Zeppelin” down a street during a test run for the Caring Community Foundation’s Breakfast in Bed Race in downtown Cary on April 26.
Stephen Paul, left, and Matt Epstein push “Bed Zeppelin” down a street during a test run for the Caring Community Foundation’s Breakfast in Bed Race in downtown Cary on April 26.

Dylan Wolford and his friends stood in the middle of the street wearing tight pants, flowy shirts and wigs that would make any '70s rock band proud.

Their team – Bed Zeppelin – will be one of several pushing beds through downtown Cary on Saturday to help the Caring Community Foundation raise money for cancer patients in North Carolina.

The Bed Zeppelin crew of teenagers has already assembled a wooden bed and attached it to wheels. They also attached a drum set, providing for an authentic drum roll during a test run last week.

The Breakfast in Bed Race is a first for the foundation and marks the first time the Cary-based charity will hold two major fundraisers in one year.

Jill Wolford started the Caring Community Foundation about 15 years ago after her own battle with breast cancer. Friends helped clean the house, cook meals and care for her children while she underwent chemotherapy.

She lost both breasts and ovaries, but she beat it. And she’s been paying it forward ever since.

Over the years, her nonprofit has distributed nearly $1.5 million to help more than 2,000 cancer patients in similar situations.

The money goes to patients who are struggling financially and need help paying for things like utility bills and prescriptions.

In fact, inspiration for the bed race came from someone the foundation helped.

Wolford had never met Mike Blankinship, but she read about his story in People Magazine. Wolford was featured in the magazine as part of its “local heroes” series.

Blankinship was dying of lung cancer in 2005 and was in so much pain he couldn’t sleep. Hospice workers recommended an adjustable mattress, but it cost $1,500.

The Caring Community Foundation paid for the bed, which gave Blankinship a couple of comfortable nights before he died.

“Had it not been for Jill’s group, I believe Mike would not have had those two days,” his widow, Veronica, wrote to the magazine.

The foundation raises money and organizes events with the help of many volunteers who were helped by Wolford.

Kathy Ackerman joined Wolford’s cause years ago. Ackerman’s mom and sister both died of cancer, and she was later diagnosed with it.

“The same people in that living room are the ones who brought me dinners,” Ackerman said during a foundation meeting at the Wolford house.

Organizers hope the bed race grows to be as beneficial as their main event, the “pay it forward” party that raises thousands of dollars each September.

The foundation is asking teams of five to build and decorate their own bed to race down Academy Street. Twelve teams are signed up so far.

Wolford thinks it could become as popular as the Krispy Kreme Challenge, held in downtown Raleigh each February. In that race, contestants run to Krispy Kreme, eat a box of doughnuts and run back.

“If people are willing to vomit up doughnuts, you’d think they’d be willing to race on a bed,” Wolford said.

If Bed Zeppelin’s trial run is any indication, skinned elbows are more likely than upset stomachs.

Fifteen-year-old Dylan, Jill’s son, sat behind the drum set while Stephen Paul, Matt Epstein and Josh Weiss pushed the bed like bobsledders atop an icy track.

It gained speed quickly and they let out a battle cry: “Ahhhhhh!”

Or maybe it was a cry for help.

Turns out their biggest challenge isn’t moving the bed, but stopping it.

“We hit the curb,” Dylan reported after pushing the bed back up hill.