The organizer of the largest annual event in this small southwestern Jackson County community rarely misses a chance to recruit another volunteer to help promote cancer awareness.
Debra Wayman’s newest recruits include a 34-year-old Brownstown woman who survived a bout of bladder cancer in 2010 and a Salem couple who have lost several members of their family to cancer.
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“I ran into Debi (Wayman) at the laundromat, and she was talking with someone else there about cancer,” Serenity Lynch said Saturday evening during the HOPE Medora Goes Pink annual dinner and dessert auction at Medora Christian Church.
The auction is a prelude to HOPE Medora Goes Pink, an event conducted on the second Saturday of October each year since 2010. Overall, more than $90,000 has been raised since the first HOPE Medora Goes Pink, and Wayman has distributed that money to those battling cancer in Jackson and surrounding counties.
“I mentioned I had had cancer, and that was all it took,” Lynch said of that chance meeting with Wayman. “She took right to me.”
Lynch, who was treated for bladder cancer in 2010 and has since recovered, said that meeting occurred about two months ago. Since then, she has become a member of the HOPE Medora Goes Pink board and is co-chairwoman for the parade with fellow board member Missy Miser Robinson.
Dottie and Charles Sowder of Salem, who have both lost family members to cancer, were attending the dinner and dessert auction for the first time.
“Her mom and dad died within three days of each other,” Charles said. “That was two months after my dad died.”
That was 12 years ago, Dottie said.
“My brother died on Christmas Day 2013,” she said.
The couple first came to know Wayman after attending the 2017 HOPE Medora Goes Pink event.
“We just like going to a lot of festivals,” Dottie said.
“We bumped into her (Wayman) at the fish stand,” Charles said.
From that meeting, which included a fish sandwich, the Sowders received help from Wayman for people they know with cancer.
“She has been great,” Dottie said. “She has helped. This is our way of giving back.”
On Saturday, Dottie gave two afghans her friends made for an auction during this year’s HOPE Medora Goes Pink — the ninth one — on Oct. 13. Charles hopes to have a cedar chest made in time for the auction that day.
The dinner and dessert auction was attended by nearly 275 people, including the cooks, servers and other volunteers.
The event, which raised $6,005, serves as a fundraiser to help with expenses for HOPE Medora Goes Pink, as all money raised that day goes to those battling cancer, Wayman said.
“Our largest expense is storage, and then through the year, we buy our event T-shirts, and then we sell them,” she said.
Wayman organized the first HOPE Medora Goes Pink event in October 2010 with the help of her daughter, Deven Wayman-Shirley, to raise cancer awareness and help those suffering from the disease.
The idea for the festival was actually born in 2009, a couple of years after Debra’s 75-year-old mother, Helen Sipes, passed away as a result of the spread of her breast cancer.
Wayman said turnout for this year’s dinner and auction was wonderful.
“Everybody’s enjoying themselves,” she said. “You don’t see laughter when it’s concerning cancer, but on this particular given night, it’s a time for people to fellowship and have fun.”
Wayman said the backbone of success for the dinner and auction along with the main event is the volunteers.
Clarence Brown of Bedford is one of the many volunteers who make HOPE Medora Goes Pink successful. He came to the cause like many others — through Wayman.
“She’s going to end up having you do something, and she’s good at it,” Brown said.
Brown sometimes serves as master of ceremonies onstage at HOPE Medora Goes Pink and just helps out there as much as possible, sometimes even singing.
“More of a volunteer for anything to help people,” he said. “When you have a heart for people and a love for doing, it’s the greatest thing you can do. I love it.”
Brown said God has done a lot for him.
“You can’t be ashamed of him,” he said.
Lynch, who is married to Logan Lynch and has three children, said Wayman is very passionate about what she does, and that one’s reason she decided to help out.
Lynch said her stepdad has Stage 4 colon cancer, she has had cancer and her grandmother died after suffering from three different cancers.
“My passion is helping people,” Lynch said. “So her message about giving 100 percent of donations back to people just really struck a chord with me. I love projects, and she gives us a lot.”