Common cause: Shared experiences with cancer bring people together for event


Talk to anyone attending or volunteering for the largest event of the year in this small southwestern Jackson County town and they’re going to tell you two things.

The first is that they have some kind of ties to Debi Wayman, who has been organizing the cancer awareness event known as HOPE Goes Medora Pink for the past eight years.

And the second?

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That they have or have had cancer or they know someone who is struggling with it or has died from it.

Take Kathy Starr of rural Medora, for instance.

“We were best friends in high school,” Starr said of her relationship with Wayman. The two graduated from Medora High School in 1973.

Although Starr doesn’t help out at HOPE Medora Goes Pink, she tries to attend every chance she gets because she thinks it’s important to lend her support.

She was at this year’s event Saturday with her two grandchildren, Audie Starr, 6, and Dean Starr, 4, and their mother, Hanna.

“I try to come every year, but sometimes, I have to work or I am going to be out of town,” Kathy Starr said.

That doesn’t mean she doesn’t think HOPE Medora Goes Pink’s mission of spreading awareness of cancer is important, Starr said.

“I lost a brother to lung cancer a few years ago, and my mother had uterine cancer,” she said.

She said helping out at the event is very important and something she plans to do when she has more time.

“For Medora to be such a small community, we have lost so many people to cancer,” she said.

Hope Barger, a 2010 graduate of Medora, married into a family from the Whiteland area, but she tries to make every HOPE Medora Goes Pink event, which is conducted on the second Saturday of October.

Members of her husband’s family come down every year and meet up with her and her family, and they all head off to Medora.

“We see friends and family,” Barger said. “We do the baby contest first and spend the day.”

Barger, who has had several members of her family with cancer, said it has kind of become a homecoming of sorts for her.

Wayman said the event generated a little more than $10,000 on Saturday. Donations, however, are accepted throughout the year. Since it was established, HOPE Medora Goes Pink has distributed $71,200.

As the event has grown there is always a need for volunteers, she said.

But we have lots of help,” Wayman said.

Wayman’s cousins, Annetta Dawson of Loogootee and Linda Mills of Kokomo, for instance, try to make the trip to help out each year.

“They made quilts and paintings,” Wayman said.

Mills couldn’t make it this year because she is serving as the caregiver for her boyfriend, who has leukemia, Dawson said.

“My sister and I are both cancer survivors,” Dawson said. “Mine was in 2012, and I had kidney cancer. She had endometrial cancer.”

She said she is involved in the annual Relay for Life event in Loogootee but enjoys coming to help Wayman out more.

“It’s for a good cause,” Dawson said.

Funds raised through the event are used to help those battling all types of cancer and their families.

Wayman and her daughter, Deven Wayman-Shirley, started HOPE Medora Goes Pink in 2009, a couple of years after Debi’s 75-year-old mother, Helen Sipes, passed away as a result of the spread of her breast cancer.

Wayman said only 10 percent of the money requested has been for people with breast cancer.

“A large portion of the recipients suffer from lymphoma, prostate cancer and melanoma,” she said.

Each Jackson County HOPE recipient receives two $50 gift cards from Jay C Food Stores to help with gasoline and grocery needs, and those outside of the county receive a $100 money order to help meet whatever needs they might have.

All recipients receive a pink letter, explaining the gift of love being given.