The Ladies Golf Association of the Brattleboro Country Club recently held its end of season luncheon, during which we formally presented the funds from our annual charity golf tournament held in July. We’ve been holding the tournament for 10 years now, and even though our association membership hovers around 60 ladies, our tournament has been attracting over 100 participants in each of the past few years.

Thanks to this incredible turnout, and the generous contributions of area businesses and organizations as tournament hole sponsors, we were able to raise over eight thousand dollars in charitable funds, the majority of which we donate to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital’s Comprehensive Breast Care Program.

We try to coincide the contribution of the gift with the onset of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, when people are thinking about women in their lives who could be or have been impacted by this disease, which is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among women according to the National Cancer Institute.

We also hope it is a time when women themselves are taking the necessary steps to ensure good breast health, which includes visiting their health care provider and scheduling their annual mammogram.

When we first started the tournament we donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. But when you’re a small community raising between six and eight thousand dollars on average, that felt a bit too removed. We can do a lot of good right here in our own community with that amount of money, and when BMH started their program, we learned it included a discretionary fund for patient expenses not covered by insurance. That fit our goals of keeping the money local and making a very personal, positive difference.

Personal stories are what really fuel the giving. In the past, we’ve had Agnes Mikijianiec, the BMH Oncology Nurse, and the breast surgery specialist, Dr. Joseph Rosen, come to our lunch to speak about the program and tell us about the type of help these funds provide. Many of us have also gone over to meet with Kelly McCue, the nurse navigator, to learn about the types of assistance she provides. It’s smart community relations on the hospital’s part. But it is important for us to do as well because the more we know it has covered substantial, non-insurance covered expenses, the better we are able to promote the program at the golf course.

We’ve paid for a lot of gas cards. Just to be able to say we’ve helped a woman afford the fuel to get to 30 radiation treatments from wherever they are living means a lot to me. We’ve paid for wigs and prosthetic devices. I think it’s sad to think that there are women who can’t afford all the things that can make them feel self-confident again. It must be terrible to have all these personal responsibilities and to have this potentially deadly disease and yet how wonderful it is that the local hospital can say, take a break, focus on what you have to do and you’ll be better.

One story that moved me greatly was about a woman who had just come to town for a job. She was a single parent of two. She feared she was going to be laid off when they discovered she was going to miss over 30 days of work due to treatments. She actually told BMH she was going to have to decline the treatments in order to keep her job, which was crucial with two small children to support. This fund was able to pay a couple months of rent and utilities to give her an opportunity to focus on her recovery, which is hard enough even when you do have the money to get on with your life.

Another story that made a difference for me came from a friend that I hadn’t seen in years and had fallen out of touch with. I didn’t know she had fallen on hard times and also had breast cancer. She wasn’t from this area, but the hospital she went to provided a discretionary fund like the one at BMH. When I told her about the contributions we were making she said she couldn’t express how important it was to her recovery. I didn’t ask her what her need was, but she said it was so wonderful to be able to ask for help and get it quickly. It really made a difference in her life just to know that someone was willing to help.

It’s the community saying we care. We’re not giving anyone big checks and we are not giving enough money to find a cure, which would be lovely. But we are able to provide some financial relief right here, right now. It’s a Vermont kind of thing, just like we’re seeing with people who are helping others recover from tropical storm Irene. It’s quiet in a way. We just do it. We don’t care who these people are that we help. All we know is they have breast cancer and they have a need and they’re from here. And that’s really what it’s worth to us.

Diane Bassett is retired paralegal, formerly working at Potter Stewart, Jr. Law Offices, and the Tournament Hole Sponsorship Co-chair for the Ladies Golf Association of Brattleboro Country Club Annual Tournament to Benefit the BMH Comprehensive Breast Program.