Tifton Gazette

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May 5, 2014

Special ‘Play Day’ coming soon to help in fight against cancer

TIFTON — The Cancer Coalition of South Georgia, located in Albany, is hosting a family and kid-friendly fundraising event called "Play Day for HOPE" May 17 in Tifton.

Melissa Goodin, development manager for the coalition, told The Tifton Gazette that the event will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at the Tift Regional Community Event Center, located at 1657 Carpenter Road. Tickets are $10 per child and up to two adults. They can be purchased in advance at Tift County Farm Bureau, Indulgence, Roberts & Co. and Ellie's Boutique or by visiting www.sgacancer.org.

Goodin said the event there will be activities, snacks, as well as an ambulance, Tift County Sheriff's Office patrol unit, tractor, golf cart, limo and more. She also noted there will be a character meet and greet with Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, Minnie and Mickey and Elmo. Parents are advised to bring their cameras.

According to a press release from the Cancer Coalition, south Georgia has some of the highest rates of cancer in the United States. Each year, more than 3,500 people in south Georgia communities are diagnosed with cancer and more than 1,000 south Georgians die from cancer.

The Cancer Coalition of South Georgia was started in 2002 by the region’s four cancer centers (Tift Regional Medical Center, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, John D. Archbold Memorial Hospital and South Georgia Medical Center) and numerous business, religious, academic and community leaders, as well as public health departments and others. The emphasis on strong community partnerships has been a mainstay of the coalition’s vision and mission since its beginning.

For the past 12 years, the coalition has focused on bringing change to south Georgia through four programmatic areas, according to the press release. Providing services to the area’s underinsured and uninsured population is the cornerstone, with education, research and outreach initiatives forming the pillars of this community-driven organization. One example of its work is a unique program to address lack of access to cancer screenings.

In 2007, the Community Cancer Screening Program was created, and since that time, it has been nationally recognized as a successful model for rural healthcare. Currently, the program works by partnering with primary care clinics and hospitals across south Georgia and, using patient navigators, has provided cancer screenings for more than 3,000 local residents.

“Our vision is to be a national model of rural comprehensive cancer control, and our mission is to prevent cancer and increase survival among the people of south Georgia. That’s what sets us apart — we have a big vision, but our mission always remains local," says Coalition CEO Diane Fletcher.

The press release states that unlike national organizations, which are often unable to target specific families or regions with their funds and resources, the Cancer Coalition works only in the 32 south Georgia counties, including Tift County, and 100 percent of funds and resources remain locally to fight cancer.

“People are realizing more and more the value of keeping their dollars local,” said Fletcher. “We want our donors and volunteers to realize that every person they help is their neighbor.”

“Our work is only limited by funding and support," says Goodin. "We welcome those who want to join us in fighting cancer locally. We are looking for volunteers, businesses and donors in south Georgia that would like to invest in the local cancer organization.”

For more information about the event or the Cancer Coalition of South Georgia, visit www.sgacancer.org. Those who would like to support the coalition’s work in and around Tifton can contact Goodin at melissa.goodin@sgacancer.org or call 229-312-1706.

To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.

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