St. John Cancer Fund founding board members include (left to right) Adonis Morten, Mary Bartolucci, Phillip “Grasshopper” Pickering, Cynthia Smith and Todd Beaty.
There is a new ally in the fight against cancer and it is tailor-made for St. John residents.
The St. John Cancer Fund was officially created in July as way to offer residents higher contributions capable of covering many areas of need, from medicine and treatment to screenings and support.
Founding board members are Adonis Morten, Celia Kalousek, Cynthia Smith, Hank Slodden, Tim Hanley, Phillip “Grasshopper” Pickering, Mary Bartolucci, Steve Yerger and Todd Beaty.
The group was formerly involved in hosting the inaugural and second annual St. John Relay for Life events under the auspices of the American Cancer Society. The new organization, according to the founding board members, will be a compliment to the ACS and will support the organization.
“We’ve continued to meet as a group regularly and we started to feel that we could be more effective in our efforts to help St. John,” said Pickering.
“This kind of piggy-backs with the ACS and will compliment the great services that they provide to residents,” said Bartolucci.
“We have quite a few people on St. John who lost their insurance recently and can’t get insurance and they got cancer,” said Smith. “They had their whole life fall part and they have to rely on whatever is out there to help them deal with it. We decided to form this group and help those people.”
The group is dedicated to investing in the health of the community, according to board members.
“St. John Cancer Fund mission is to invest in the health of our community, and although the advisory committee may vote to make donations to other organizations who have and continue to support our residents, the primary distribution of the funds raised by St. John is to St. Johnians,” according to the group’s website. “This fund was formed by a committee of St. John residents who wanted to see financial support for cancer with an expanded list of eligible expense coverage, additional preventative screening options, and flexible cap limits.”
Not looking for a way to manage the fund themselves, however, the group interviewed several non-profit organizations which could offer financial management.
In the end, the group chose to go with the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, which has more than two decades of local financial management under its belt and charge no administrative costs, explained Smith.
“That means that all of the money we raise will go to the cancer patients from St. John who need it,” said Smith. “The money can be used for anything they need from treatment to needing a baby sitter so you can get that treatment.”
With the fledgling group’s coffers currently empty, members could not discuss what sort of cap limits would be in place for individuals in need, but hope to be able to make significant contributions, explained Pickering.
“There is no cap, but there is no money right now,” said Pickering. “We want to raise as much money as possible in order give as much support to as many people as we can.”
St. John Cancer Fund board members are also hoping to make a difference by raising awareness and increasing screenings, explained Morten.
“The other thing we really want to work on is prevention and education,” Morten said. “We want to raise awareness and help with early detection through screenings and education.”
To obtain assistance, cancer patients in need would fill out a request form and submit to CFVI, explained Bartolucci.
“The cancer patient has to have a diagnosis and they send the form and the request to CFVI and then it goes down to the board for approval and the check is cut within 24 hours,” Bartolucci said.
The group is not waiting long to get the fund raising ball rolling. The first event is a golf tournament planned for October 17 at Mahogany Run Golf Course followed on Friday, October 26, with the Third Annual Save Second Base Block Party at Woody’s Seafood Saloon from 8 to 11 p.m.
“It’s a tribute to the hundreds of Woody’s girls who have passed through the door,” said Beaty, owner of Woody’s and founding board member of St. John Cancer Fund.
Block Party-goers can expect live music and great raffle prizes as well as plenty of food and drinks and T-shirts for sale. All proceeds from both events will go to the St. John Cancer Fund.
“We are extremely excited to support the St. John Cancer Fund,” said Beaty. “Having an event where the money stays strictly on St. John with no administrative costs, it couldn’t be more effective.”
The group is planning additional major fund raising events and is open to any income-generating ideas from community members.
“People should come out to the golf tournament and to the Woody’s party to support the St. John Cancer Fund,” said Smith. “And we’d love to hear from people about other ideas for fund raisers.”
“And we need more people to become involved in the committee itself,” said Pickering. “We have people who have worked really hard and they need some help.”
While planning additional events in the future, the St. John Cancer Fund board members will not be behind this year’s ACS St. John Relay for Life.
The third annual all-night fund raising event for ACS is planned for February 9 and 10 at the Winston Wells ball field, according to ACS St. Thomas/St. John executive director Lorraine Baa.
“I am talking to the chair [of the event] right now and we don’t have it set in stone yet,” said Baa about the upcoming Relay for Life. “We’re trying to get all our people in place. It’s definitely on this year and we’ll have details soon.”
For more information about the St. John Cancer Fund check out www.stjohncancerfund.org, for more information about the ACS, check out www.cancer.org.