“We want to be able to do prevention and education,” founding member Mary Bartolucci said.
What the fund will be able to cover is still being worked out, but founding member Cynthia Smith said situations such as cancer screenings, helping with such items as groceries, paying for a caregiver to fly to St. John to provide care or take care of the cancer patient’s children are likely.
Members worked on the two American Red Cross Relay for Life events held on St. John, but Bartolucci said they want to expand the scope of help beyond just the transportation mandated by the Red Cross. Additionally, funds raised at Relay for Life-related events on St. John went into a pool to help patients on both St. Thomas and St. John as well as pay administrative costs. The St. John Cancer Fund will be able to keep all the money to pay for St. John’s needs.
“We felt we wanted to be more effective for St. John cancer patients. We’re never going to pay for someone’s treatment, but want to ease the burden,” Bartolucci said.
Bartolucci said the need is particularly critical on St. John because so many residents are self employed and must fund their own health insurance if they can afford it. The cost is very high and unless those buying insurance pay extremely high premiums, the policies come with huge deductibles. The health insurance issue was recently compounded by the withdrawal of U.S.-based health insurance companies from the territory, leaving those who need to buy new health insurance policies with no options. For those without health insurance, the cost of cancer care can be catastrophic.
Additionally, Smith said many St. John residents put their family before themselves, using available funds to pay for family needs rather than health care for themselves.
“I don’t want anybody on this island to worry about not getting a checkup,” Smith said.
St. John Cancer Fund will have a table set up at Save Second Base to accept donations.
The money raised at Save Second Base goes only toward breast cancer, a fact that gives the event its name. Laughing, Beaty said it has its roots in youthful amorous pursuits concerning that portion of a woman’s anatomy.
“Everybody seems to get it,” he said of the name.
The Cancer Fund also plans an overnight field event with a tentative date sometime in March.
The Cancer Fund has an advisory board that will decide how to disburse the money it raises. Applications will be made to the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, which is managing the financial aspects for the Cancer Fund. It will send applications on to the Cancer Fund. Applicants will be anonymous to those making decisions on who gets how much money.
In addition to Bartolucci, Beaty and Smith, other advisory board members are Adonis Morton, Hank Slodden, Philip “Grasshopper” Pickering, and Celia Kalousek.
Gail Siert, Steve Yeager and Tim Hanley as well as those on the advisory board are founding members.
Information is available online at www.stjohncancerfund.org.