Scores of pink balloons sailed into a gray sky above the North Raleigh United Methodist Preschool last Wednesday, a symbol of how a community’s support for its members can have a powerful ripple effect.
The preschool’s annual Pink Day, a ceremony that marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, began in 2010 when Stephanie Beguelin, who had two children at the preschool, was diagnosed with the disease.
The preschool community and others rallied to help Beguelin and her family as she went through treatment. Beguelin felt lucky for their support – and she quickly saw that some women with breast cancer didn’t have the resources or help that she did.
Those women didn’t always have reliable transportation to the hospital or were scrambling to pay for their prescriptions and still put food on the table.
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Beguelin decided to find a way to help.
“We had to do something,” she said. “We had been so fortunate and so blessed.”
The result was the Fight for 1in9 Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial and other assistance to patients who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Since 2011, the organization has helped nearly 150 women and their families by providing transportation, gas cards, food and more.
The group coordinates with social workers at UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Rex Hospital to identify women in the Triangle who need assistance.
“I think sometimes you just have to look outside your door,” Beguelin said.
Beyond donating to the foundation, the community at the preschool also has found ways to continue supporting one another.
Austin Ragsdale Whichard, a mother at the preschool, was diagnosed with breast cancer last fall. Parents, teachers and staff visited, provided meals and helped with carpools as Ragsdale Whichard went through treatment. And when she woke up from surgery, she was relieved to see Beguelin at her side.
Whichard received a clean bill of health from her doctor just a week before Pink Day, which made the ceremony more poignant than ever for her.
“It’s really special because the school has been so supportive,” she said. “They’ve been like a family.”
The foundation is hosting additional fundraising events this month, including “Dance for a Chance” classes at 10 O2 Fitness clubs. Fight for 1in9 will receive 100 percent of the proceeds from those classes. More details are available at 1in9.com.