HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Pink Ribbon Fund is a non-profit raising money for people in the Pine Belt with breast cancer, but it's also created volunteer opportunities for cancer survivors to give back.
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, and so trying to give back," said Tonya Creech, who volunteers with the Pink Ribbon Fund's fundraising committee. "My mom died of breast cancer about 10 years ago, so kind of family involved I guess."
Ramona Walters was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, and now as a 10-year cancer survivor, she volunteers her time rising money for others battling the disease.
"It was just a way for me to get involved in the community," Walters said. "I was asked originally to be on the board for Pink Ribbon. I did not know about Pink Ribbon when I went through cancer. I went to Birmingham for my treatments. When I got back and kind of settled and in a routine, a friend from Laurel asked me to be on it, and I just jumped in both feet, started helping. We just have a lot of fun getting out and raising money for our Pine Belt breast cancer patients."
Without local chapters of big, national breast cancer charities, Walters and Creech said the Pink Ribbon Fund is essential.
"It takes such a toll on you in so many different ways, and that's one of the things that we strive for is just to be there for the patient," Walters said. "It's just heartwarming. It's heartwarming to hear the stories of the patients that we've helped. It's heartwarming to see a variety of people come together at our meeting and try to think of ways that we can raise money that hasn't been touched before. To see the people's hearts open up, so we can raise money to give back to our community."
Creech said, "If you've ever had breast cancer or are touched by it, you kind of think about it every day, but once you get further and further away, it makes it a little easier to think about."
Both said because it's a local organization, the money goes directly back into the community.
"It is really us, and we give the money actually back to our patients," Walters said. "I believe we serve 17 counties in the Pine Belt. We do not keep anything. We do not pay for anything. Everything is donated, so we're different than most agencies because we have no overhead, no administrative costs. We are all volunteers, and everything we raise is given back to our patients."
Creech said, "What I love about Pink Ribbon Fund is all the money, 100 percent, goes right back to people with breast cancer, men and women who need it."
Both women said giving back gives more meaning to their own survival.
"You've got to depend on those sisters that's gone through it, so you can ask those questions," Walters said. "And for the men who have gone through breast cancer, they need the brothers to go through it with them because there's things that happen that you have to ask questions about. Actually, right now I'm visiting with a friend I've never met- only through technology and text messaging- that I'm working with in Starkville, Mississippi. I've never met her, but I feel like I know her. She's a sister through breast cancer. She's in the throes of chemo right now, and although Pink Ribbon has not actually helped her, I feel because I'm part of Pink Ribbon I'm helping her out, just by being there to talk to her. She's losing her hair, and she's sick. She just needs that somebody that knows where she's been to talk to."
Creech said, "It gives, I guess, more meaning to surviving by helping others too. You know, I'm still here, so I need to do something positive with it."
For more information about the Pink Ribbon Fund, call (601) 450-7465.