Changing Times and Passing the Torch
When I decided to create Help the Hoo-Hahs in 2011, part of the reason I did so was because I couldn't find an organization or event that raised awareness and financial support for women battling GYN cancers in our area. Since that time, I'm happy to say that much has changed. There are two great events coming up this September just in our local area, and many more around the country. Society is truly more comfortable talking about gynecological cancers and I'd like to think we've played a small part in that change.
Since 2011, Help the Hoo-Hahs has raised over $175,000 for local women battling GYN cancers. And unlike some large organizations, we put the money in the hands of the women who needed it. One of my favorite examples was helping a woman get an A/C unit because she was going through treatments in the hot Georgia summer and had no A/C. This is just one of many stories of helping women through one of the most difficult times in their lives.
Our fundraising efforts since the beginning were made possible through a partnership with the Memorial Health Foundation, which was the fundraising arm of Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia. This partnership made sense, since this is the largest tertiary care center in our area. In 2011, this was also the only place in our area to be treated by a GYN oncologist. However, since that time, there are now several treatment options in the area with specially trained doctors to manage these deadly cancers. Again, progress!
In late 2017, due to Memorial Hospital being acquired by a for-profit hospital corporation, the Memorial Health Foundation was forced to close. Our remaining funds were transferred to a specially created GYN Cancer fund at the United Way of the Coastal Empire and I'm proud that they will continue to disperse these funds to women in need in the way I envisioned in 2011. My thanks to the United Way for their help!
As I began planning for this year's event, I realized that so much more of the fundraising responsibilities would fall back to me. I'm not sure if everyone realizes, but Help the Hoo-Hahs has no staff, only me at my computer at 3:30 am trying to work on fundraising ideas before I head off to work. Or, running to get permits on my lunch break or working late into the night on thank-you notes. Without question, the success of our events has been due to the hard work and generosity of many participants, donors and volunteers. I can't possibly thank my family, friends and our supporters enough for their help year after year. However, running a non-profit organization is a tremendous amount of work and responsibility behind the scenes. On a personal note, I also have a very stressful full-time job, volunteer for other organizations, and am still trying to somehow succeed at being a good wife and mother. My sincerest apologies to my husband and daughter for the many times I fail at this endeavor.
As I look back over our success since 2011, it really looks like a classic bell curve, with us raising over $37,000 in 2013. It's no mistake that year was our biggest. That's the year we lost my Mom to ovarian cancer and many people donated in her memory. However, our support has gone down each year after, which is not uncommon for fundraising events. I also know it has to do with an ever increasing number of competing events, which again, is great because it just means there are more events celebrating women who have battled ovarian, cervical, endometrial, uterine, vaginal, vulvar, peritoneal, and fallopian tube cancers.
Recently, I woke up with what I can describe as my first ever "panic attack" brought on by another nightmare about the race. As my close friends and family can tell you, I stress about the race every year, but this year it's been much worse. It took me a few days to acknowledge that the level of stress I've put myself under is unhealthy. My husband has begged me to cut back on some of my activities. However, there is also tremendous guilt with the thought of not continuing the race. As you all know, this is an intensely personal mission. I love seeing my daughter (now 12) and all her friends wearing Hoo-Hahs T-shirts year-round, and realizing they'll never worry about the stigma of discussing GYN issues. I also love the feeling on race day of all of us survivors getting together celebrating life, and honoring those brave women we've lost.
After weeks of soul searching, prayer and reflection, I think I've found a solution. I have made the difficult decision to cancel our 5K race for 2018. Make no mistake, I will still be raising money for women battling GYN cancers and Help the Hoo-Hahs will continue to encourage people to support local and national events aimed at raising awareness and support of GYN cancers. However, it's time to let someone else "run the show" and I can just be a supporter. One of the lessons I've learned from cancer is every day is precious and no day is guaranteed. I'm looking forward to spending a little more time with my family, and excited about the chance to actually participate in one of these other 5K events. I hope everyone understands this difficult decision and I hope to see you at one of these other events. You can also still donate to our Hoo-Hahs fund at the United Way of the Coastal Empire by clicking on the link below.
Thank you so much for your support and understanding.
Libby H. Malphrus
Help the Hoo-Hahs
T.E.A.L. Savannah Walk 09/22/18: http://www.tealwalk.org/site/c.ajITK8NHLdJ2E/b.8995991/k.A438/Event_Central.htm
Lowcountry Teal Diva: https://runsignup.com/Race/SC/NCharleston/LowcountryTealDiva5kforOvarianGynecologicKancers
United Way of the Coastal Empire Hoo-Hahs Fund:
Gynecological Cancer Events: