'You Are Not Alone' the message of 15th Annual Day to Fight CancerReprinted from THE RECORD ENTERPRISE
By Leigh Sharps, Contributing Writer
Published: Thursday, September 25, 2014
PLYMOUTH - It was a bittersweet day last Saturday - one filled with tears and hugs and recollections, but also one of hope, words of encouragement, and many answers concerning aid for those individuals (and families) struggling with cancer.
(Photo by Leigh Sharps: Team Elliott sets off the walk the course. From left to right: Liam Hallett, Baby Greyson Hallett, Jessica Elliott, Keri Hallett-Elliott, Jackie Elliott, Robert Elliott, Carole Elliott, Terry Comeau-Elliott, Christina Patridge, Don Thorn, Ethan Poitras, and Diane Poitras.)
'Keeping You, Me, and Memories Alive' (KYMMA) Inc., a non-profit organization, held its 15th year of celebration of life and memories on Arold Field in front of the Plymouth State University (PSU) field house, as they do every year.
The chilly weather did not deter those folks who sponsored luminaries (objects such as lanterns lit by candles) with pictures and writings to honor cancer survivors and those who have passed from the disease. Sponsors also backed walkers on teams who took to a course lined with the luminaries outside the field house.
The event started when PSU student Melissa Merrill sought help as she took care of her mother dying from breast cancer.
"She wanted to begin helping other families and cancer patients after her mother passed. She realized how much families and individuals with cancer could use, besides compassion, such basic necessities as gas to get to treatments, furnace oil and groceries," explained KYMMA Treasurer Diane Tiffany.
Merrill has attended the event every September since its inception and this year she cut the ribbon to start the day's activities.
The day has grown from a simple hike walking around the track (one or many times) with the financial backing of sponsors to a day filled with entertainment, games, food booths and, this year, a visit by 'Juggling Jim' and the Wolfman from Clark's Trading Post in Lincoln.
Money raised by the event goes directly to help those families who need help. "It stays right in the community, where it was meant to be," said Tiffany.
A story of love
When the Elliott family of Holderness learned the head of their family, Bob, Jr., just 53, had pancreatic cancer, they were overwhelmed, downhearted, shocked but nonetheless hopeful.
His wife Jackie and both his close family (four kids and two grandsons and another on the way) and his parents and siblings began a long year's journey of treatments.
At the time, Jackie wanted to start an organization to help other needy families unaware of the local KYMMA organization.
"She was referred to us and we told her there was no need to invent the wheel," said Tiffany.
Thanks and gratefulness, as well as relief, touched Jackie's family when the foundation gave them a gas card (as they had to travel several times a week for Bob's treatments in Hanover), a food card (Hannaford, Wal-Mart and, of course, Bob's Shurfine owned by the Elliott family), and funds for heating oil.
"It made such a difference," said Jackie. "I wish everyone would pay it forward; if it could just help one person."
Nearly 50 friends, relatives and local businesses backed Team Elliott last week in walking or donating to help others who went through the same thing as they did (Bob passed away in July of 2013).
"It's something we all wanted to do; we had to do to honor Bob," said his sister Terry Comeau, who manned the family's food booth (donations to the foundation) for the day.
Bob's daughters Keri, Jessica and Danielle joined Comeau.
"I'm here to remember my father. I'm always going to do this," said Keri.
Jessica added, "I hope this event makes people aware of how many families are coping with all the elements of this disease."
"You know, my family and Bob's are so wonderful, supportive, as is this organization. I seriously wanted to die after Bob did, but I knew I had to go on because of this loving family. I had to go on. I'm so proud of all my family... they're all so amazing!" said Jackie.
While PSU's Dr. Bob Egbert read the names of those honored on the written luminaries, Haley McAfee quietly played the flute in the background. Attendees stood with bowed heads for the entirety.
Jackie hopes the day will further awareness of 'Keeping You, Me and Memories Alive' by having it in the public eye.
"I know what it's like for families struggling. You feel you're all alone. Your world has ended. You're devastated. These people (KYMMA) are so caring; they touch your heart. It is just as they say 'We're neighbors helping neighbors,'" she said.
And as one luminary states "You guys are the angels I 'hear' about on earth who ARE 'here' on earth!"
This year, Tiffany said that one day garnered nearly $19,000 with checks and donations still coming in.
"It says that Plymouth (and the area) is a loving, caring community," Tiffany said. "Besides helping families we also give textbook awards to one PSU student and two high school students each year. We want people to know they are not alone in their journey!"
"You realize how lucky you are to have your health," expressed Bob's father. "And we'll be back next year, God willing," added his mother.
"I will always be here to honor Bob's memory...always," concluded Jackie.
Source: Record Enterprise - Volume 122, Number 39 (link opens in a new window.)
Keeping You, Me, and Memories Alive, Inc.