It's time for the 5th Ruby Slipper fundraiser

While at first blush it would seem that cancer and fashion have nothing in common, such is not the case for a handful of dedicated fundraisers on the Sunshine Coast just ask the hardworking women of the Ruby Slipper Fund.

For the uninitiated, the Ruby Slipper Fund is a grassroots organization on the Coast that was started in memory of a local woman, Patsy Rothenbush, who succumbed to cancer almost five years ago.

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During her illness, Rothenbush made a point of telling her friends how lucky she was to be able to fight her cancer at home. She knew of many who were not so fortunate and wanted her legacy to be a way to help sick folks struggling financially. After her death, the women she was closest to started the Ruby Slipper because, after all, as Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz (the inspiration for the fund's name), there really is no place like home.

Casting about for a unique way to raise money, the fund founders, Sandie Lanskail, Carolyn Spence and Brenda Rowe, came up with a plan to auction off new and gently used shoes and purses donated by the attendees. In addition, each person would purchase a ticket to attend the event. And in spite of some of the initial skepticism of one of their husbands, the idea turned out to be a huge success. Last year, the fourth fundraiser netted a whopping $22,500. This year's event on April 5 at Holy Family Church in Sechelt is already on its way to beating that record.

In addition supporters over the past year such as Shoppers Drug Mart with the proceeds of their Tree of Life, local businesswoman Teresa Fournier's award donation and Dr. Carla Paetkau's contribution from a Vernon Hockey Tournament charity sponsorship swelled the coffers by over $10,000, a fact that thrills Lanskail.

You'd be absolutely amazed at what $100, $400, $500 can do for someone who has no money coming in. I'm overwhelmed by how many people need help. It's sad that there are so many cracks people can slip through. Our medical system is great but there are so many additional expenses for people living on the Coast, she said.

Ashley Doyle, a young cancer survivor, echoed Lanskail.

Now one in three people will get cancer [six years ago when Rothenbush was diagnosed the number was one in six]. It's very difficult for young people. Outwardly they don't look unwell. Many times the young person is mistaken for the caregiver, Doyle said.

Her experiences with the disease made her want to connect with other people struggling with the same issues she was. Serendipitously the Ruby Slipper Fund was looking for a way to help many people; consequently the charity funded two cancer support groups. One, that meets the first and third Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. of each month, is for cancer patients to come together and talk about challenges they face and to learn of ways to make their disease more manageable. The other is for caregivers whose own health in many instances is challenged by their role. Both meetings take place at the Community Resource Centre on Teredo Street in Sechelt. Call 604-885-4088 for times and dates for the caregivers support group or check the Coast Reporter Community Calendar. There is no cost to attend either group and no commitment is necessary. Each is run on a drop-in basis.

Last year more than 500 items were donated to the Ruby Slipper fundraising event including 125 purses, 300 pairs of shoes and 100 pieces of jewelry (a new addition to the roster). Tickets are available at the Daily Roast, St. Mary's Hospital, the Sunshine Coast Credit Union (Sechelt branch) and Cactus Flower. Donations can be dropped off until March 15 at any branch of the Credit Union or the Daily Roast. The $25 admission will go a long way to alleviating angst in cancer patients in our community. We're all winners at this event.

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