Seven years ago, a Medora woman and her daughter established an event to raise awareness of breast cancer and help those who have been touched by the disease.
“My daughter, Deven Wayman-Shirley, helps with the computer aspects and social media,” said Debra Wayman, co-founder, volunteer and president of HOPE Medora Goes Pink. “The event takes a lot of organization and structure.”
The event — conducted on the second Saturday of October each year — requires the help of other family members, including Wayman’s son and her husband, and many volunteers from the town of Medora and elsewhere.
Wayman’s son, Denny, who lives just outside of Medora, handcrafts the wooden flowers, spinners, wood frames and even the plinko game board for the event.
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Her husband, Dennis, also helps out with the construction projects and other areas, including erecting signs, where needed.
HOPE Medora Goes Pink began as a family affair for the Waymans and has brought the community together to help raise money for those battling cancer.
The idea for the festival was born in 2009, a couple of years after Wayman’s 75-year-old mother passed away as a result of her breast cancer spreading.
People deal with the loss of a loved one in many different ways. The passing of Helen Sipes, who was Wayman’s mother and best friend, sent Debra into a spiral of grief and darkness.
“After about two years, I saw a lady at church who had also lost her mother from cancer,” Wayman said. “Then I heard the words, ‘Do something,’ which were very clear.”
So Wayman did do something. Motivated with divine inspiration, the darkness that had been haunting her began to change into light.
The name of the event was derived from something Wayman’s mother used to say: “As long as there is one breath in me, I still have hope.”
With new purpose, Wayman and her daughter were able to find two representatives from each of the five churches in Medora to help with their cause. Local businesses and Medora Community Schools offered to help, too.
“The schools have gone all out with the students and teachers coming together to get involved,” Wayman said. “They even have pep sessions the day before the event where the teachers wear pink and they put on skits.”
Last year, then-Medora Principal Chrystal Street, who is now the principal of Brownstown Elementary School, helped organize a spirit night and a hat day. Shirts were sold to help raise funds and awareness for HOPE Medora Goes Pink.
The people of Medora and southwestern Jackson County are not the only ones getting involved in the cancer awareness event. Other states also are getting involved.
“My granddaughter, Eden Shirley, was 5 and wanted to help. She and her family lived in Malibu, California, at the time, and they had a fundraiser,” Wayman said. “We had a little event, and within two weeks, she raised $785 along with her brother, Talon, and 100 percent of the proceeds were given directly to people with cancer.”
As all of the money raised from HOPE Medora Goes Pink goes to those battling cancer, a fundraising dinner was started three years ago to help cover expenses for the event in October. The dinner, which was in August, is in its third year.
The October cancer awareness event ultimately is made up of three segments — medical, memories and a support system.
The medical part is to bring awareness to cancer in hopes of catching it early with checkups and by recognizing symptoms. Schneck Medical Center and the Don and Dana Cancer Center in Seymour along with other medical providers are involved in the event and will be holding a health fair from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday in Medora.
The memories portion of the festival include all of the events, including special music, a 5K run/walk, craft booths, a volleyball tournament, carnival games and many other activities.
Finally, the support system recognizes all forms of cancer. More than $40,000 has been raised through HOPE Medora Goes Pink since it began Oct. 9, 2010, and only 10 percent of the money requested has been for breast cancer. A large portion of the recipients suffer from lymphoma, prostate cancer and melanoma.
Each Jackson County HOPE recipient receives two $50 gift cards from JayC Food Stores to help with gasoline and grocery needs. The recipients who live outside of the county each receive a $100 money order to help meet whatever needs they might have. All recipients receive a pink letter, explaining the gift of love being given.
Every class in Medora Community Schools has two representatives, one boy and one girl. Then by a penny a vote, one boy and one girl are chosen to be the HOPE Ambassadors.
The ambassadors for 2015 are both kindergartners, Briar Pumphrey and Josie Bowers.
Through penny donations, Medora Community School has raised $2,958 in change for the fundraiser. The 2016 HOPE Ambassadors will be named at 9:30 a.m. Saturday on the stage at Main and George streets.
Briar and Josie had the honor of presenting Brantley Shane Morron with a HOPE gift. Four-year-old Brantley is the son of Adrien Wright and lives in Bloomington. Brantley’s father is Josh Morron of Bedford. Brantley is the youngest HOPE gift recipient and was only 3 when he was diagnosed with leukemia.
He has many treatments ahead of him, but the love that has been shown to him and his family through HOPE, friends and family has provided them with much-needed support.
“When I told him he was going to get an award he said, ‘For me?’ and laughed,” Wright said. “I asked him how he felt about it, and he said, ‘I feel like a good, strong cowboy.’”
Brantley is scheduled to be honored with a Spirit Award during a presentation at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Medora festival.
This year’s festival also will feature an Irish Wolfhound March for Cancer. The Irish Wolfhound is one of the tallest dog breeds in the world, some reaching the size of a small pony.
Scott Fleck of Jackson County will be bringing some of the breed to Medora, two of which are being flown in from Czechoslovakia especially for the event.
The march will be begin at 1 p.m. at Main and David streets. Those who wish to participate may bring their dogs and walk through town for cancer awareness.
“They will be there all day across from Bundy Brothers & Sons Feed Mill, and Scott hopes to make it look like a castle,” Wayman said. “People can also donate a dollar for a Wolfhound kiss. If you’ve never seen an Irish Wolfhound, it would be worth your while to just have the experience.”
In honor of the event’s seventh year, the Cross for a Cause Relay also will be held.
Wayman said the inspiration for the event comes from her seeing a cross being carried in Louisiana at Easter time.
Wayman’s father, Cyrus Wayman, had built a 6½-foot-tall wooden cross more than 30 years ago and was a lung cancer survivor before he passed away at the age of 68 in 1998 from another health condition.
“With seven being a holy number and to honor this seventh year, the cross has been decorated with pink and white lights and will be carried by all of those who participate,” she said. “The relay will begin at the Medora Covered Bridge at 3 p.m. on Saturday and will be relayed to the stage at Main and George streets, where the cross will be lighted and will stay lit for one month.”
The lit cross will serve as a reminder of the love that was shown for us on the cross, and Wayman wants those who view it to know how many people have supported HOPE Medora Goes Pink and offered love, prayers and monetary support to the many people who are affected by all types of cancer.
“I can’t emphasize enough how appreciative we are of the volunteers,” Wayman said. “Whether they work, help with the preparations, decorate, entertain or make cookies, they have all been a part of raising the more than $40,000 over the past seven years.”
The HOPE Medora Goes Pink event’s motto is, “Medora Cares. Medora Shares. Working Together to Help Others.”
For information about HOPE Medora Goes Pink or to be a volunteer, contact Wayman at 812-966-2754 or 812-530-0093 or email her at email@example.com.
Friday’s edition of The Tribune will feature our annual Colors of Hope section that takes a look at people who have had cancer and survived or are still struggling with the disease that affects most of us in one way or another.