When word spread that longtime Whiteland resident Tanya Ward was struggling with colon cancer, several area residents were compelled to help with a fundraiser.
They lined up dozens of sponsors to provide prizes for a silent auction, chili and other supplies. They sent hundreds of e-mails and Facebook messages to people locally and around the state.
But the work has been minuscule compared to the effect they hope to have on the Ward family.
For the past three years, the Whiteland residents have organized fundraisers for local families affected by cancer. Lori Stuck, Brian Cross and Holly Stalets, all graduates of Whiteland Community High School, have helped six families with benefit events, including a softball tournament, dodgeball games and an afternoon of bowling.
The lastest effort will be a skating party to help Ward and her husband, Ed Ward, who has run a barber shop in town for 43 years.
“Out-Skate Cancer” will help cover medical costs and expenses that insurance doesn’t include, such as gas money to drive to treatment. The fundraiser has grown to include the remodeling of Ward’s business, Tracy Plaza Barber Shop, accomplished almost entirely with donated materials and labor.
“I grew up in the town of Whiteland, and I feel like someone has to step up to make this kind of difference in people’s lives,” Stuck said.
The fundraising campaigns grew out of a one-time event to help a friend being treated for cancer and was so well-received that they decided to do it every year.
When they heard about the struggles the Wards were going through, they decided to focus their efforts on the family.
All of them had a connection to Ward and his shop. Cross had gotten his hair cut at Tracy Plaza Barber Shop since he was a child, and Stuck and Stalets have friends, boyfriends and other acquaintances who frequent the business.
You couldn’t grow up in Whiteland and not know Ed Ward, Cross said.
Tanya Ward was diagnosed with colon cancer in October. Since then, she has gone through intense rounds of chemotherapy to try to shrink the tumor.
For days at a time, she has been bedridden and sick from the treatments. Ed Ward has taken chunks of time away from his work at the barber shop he owns to care for her, running her to medical appointments and helping her through the ordeal.
He has been missed at the barber shop, said Debbie Shay, who has worked for Ward since 1978.
“He’s always been a happy guy, so this has been kind of hard with the cancer,” she said.
Doctors have said that Tanya Ward’s cancer has stabilized, although she is only halfway done with the treatment before her condition is reassessed. If a CT scan shows that it has decreased in size, she’ll be done with chemotherapy. But if not, more rounds will be scheduled.
Since the diagnosis, the stress and worry have taken an obvious toll, Shay said. He said Ed Ward seems more run down and less jovial.
But since he found out about the fundraiser and the effort to redo his shop, his spirits have been lifted.
“I think it makes him feel better, and it distracts him from what’s going on at home. Not that he can forget about it, but it helps him take his mind off it for a little while,” Shay said.
Stuck has lined up sponsors from around the community to provide funding and supplies to make Out-Skate Cancer a success.
She has found that every time she approaches local businesses and organizations to help, she always has great support.
Stuck also has merged other community initiatives into the fundraiser. Kids ages 18 and younger can get in free with the donation of a canned food item.
Another group she belongs to, the Realtor Foundation, works to end homelessness and help those struggling to get out of poverty. The canned goods will go to local food pantries toward that effort.
“When an idea is thrown out there for a wonderful cause, everyone here is quick to realize it,” she said.