Last fall, more than 150 members of the Covenant Shores family laced up their walking shoes and raised more than $4,000 in a local “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” walk, a cause that hits close to home. On Oct. 8, the “small community with a big heart” will do it again.
Covenant Shores Resident Life Director Roxanne Helleren was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2014, and organized a Making Strides warm-up walk on Mercer Island last year to fundraise for the American Cancer Society (ACS). The goal was to walk 250 laps around Covenant Shores’ lakeside walking trail, but families, staff members, residents and community neighbors walked 760.
This year, Helleren is planning three community outreach events: a “Making Strides Rally” at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 7 in the Covenant Shores Fellowship Hall, a walk at 10 a.m. on Oct. 8 on the lakeside trail and a pilgrimage to join other walkers at the “Making Strides” 5k at Seattle Center at 8 a.m. on Oct. 29.
Everyone can participate, either by attending the rally, walking, cheering or making a cash or check donation.
Helleren said her mission is to continue to provide opportunities for residents at Covenant Shores to give to American Cancer Society through the campus and community walks; to educate people about the BRCA gene mutations, breast cancer prevention and what community resources are available; and to support and encourage women who are diagnosed with breast cancer around her in her home, church and work.
“Many residents have been touched with cancer in their families and have shared their story,” she said.
After months of chemotherapy treatments and nine surgeries, Helleren is cancer-free as of August 2015.
Her co-workers marveled that Helleren was able to stay upbeat and optimistic throughout her treatment, and Helleren said that it was the support from friends, family and the Covenant Shores community that got her through, as well as ACS.
ACS presented a “first-timer” basket of goodies at her first chemo session, offered a “Look Good, Feel Better” class when she lost her hair and provided scholarships for financial assistance with medical bills. She also made personal connections with other volunteers, including retired nurse Teri Pointer, who helped Helleren through chemotherapy, and a volunteer from Spokane who crochets more than 1,000 hats a year to donate to cancer patients.
Helleren said the hat was not only functional, but it also was a conversation starter and made her feel feminine when she had no hair, eyebrows or eyelashes.
At the “Look Good, Feel Better” class, Helleren was able to identify and bond with other cancer patients who had recently been diagnosed and learn how to wear her wig. She also received a handout that listed salons participating in a free wig program.
Helleren now serves on the ACS executive advisory board to give back to the organization that was so supportive during her treatment, she said.
All cancer survivors, just not those with breast cancer, will be honored at Friday’s rally, where attendees will hear from ACS representatives about the latest research updates.
The Covenant Shores community is a very educated and generous one, Helleren said. Last year, it was recognized as one of the top 10 fundraising companies in the greater Seattle area.
Participating in the charity walk is just another example of its active philanthropic endeavors. Monthly, residents make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as part of 100 bag lunches they assemble that include chips, cookie, fruit and water to donate to two homeless shelters. The Stitches from the Heart club knits and crochets baby caps, booties, sweaters and blankets. Since 2006, the club has donated more than 2,200 baby items to local charities dedicated to supporting families in need.
Covenant Shores, a faith-based, not-for-profit, continuing care retirement community, is located at 9150 Fortuna Drive. It is administered by Covenant Retirement Communities, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit senior services providers. For more information, call 877–385-8613 or visit www.covenantshores.org.