October, “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”, is a time to reflect on the
impact that breast cancer has on the lives of many Maine residents. The need for research
leading to eradication of this disease is urgent. But there is also a need to take
action to assist those currently dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis or in need
of breast health services. The Maine Breast Cancer Coalition’s Support
strives to fill this need for Maine residents.
the past eighteen years, the Maine Breast Cancer Coalition’s Support Service
Fund has been an important “safety net” program for Maine people needing
breast health or breast cancer related assistance and who have nowhere else to turn.
This month marks an important milestone for the Fund: During the past eighteen
years we have helped more than four thousand Maine residents with a total of more
than $2,000,000 in grant awards.
The Support Service Fund began as
an idea among a group of MBCC volunteers. When we published our first Maine Breast
Cancer Resource Guide in 1997 and distributed the free guide around the state, we
began to get phone calls from Maine women who desperately needed help and did not
know where to turn. Some needed mammograms; some had been diagnosed with breast cancer
and needed prostheses, mastectomy bras, or other items or services. Some of the people
who called were uninsured, but many had insurance policies that didn’t cover
what they needed or had high deductibles or co-pays.
A group of women from
Maine Breast Cancer Coalition started talking about how we might help. What if there
was a program to provide financial assistance to people who had exhausted all other
possibilities? How would our small group of volunteers develop and manage such a program?
How would we raise the money?
Around the same time as these conversations
were taking place, Dan DeLuca, a champion Maine swimmer, was thinking about a way
to honor his mother, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, by raising money for
a breast cancer cause. Dan contacted the president of Maine Breast Cancer Coalition
and told her that he would swim the 32 miles across Moosehead Lake as a fundraising
event to benefit those diagnosed with breast cancer.
first Moosehead swim in 1999 was marked by extreme weather, wind, and whitecaps that
made Moosehead Lake look like the English Channel on a bad day. Halfway through the
event, the swim had to be called off, but Dan still raised $17,000. The next year,
he tried again and completed the first-ever swim across Moosehead Lake, raising $25,000
for the fledgling Support Service Fund.
Maine Breast Cancer Coalition had
also written our first grant proposal to the Maine Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen
Breast Cancer Foundation. The $15,000 Komen grant and the funds Dan DeLuca raised
from the Moosehead swims became our seed money. The Support Service Fund was launched
During its first year, the Support Service Fund awarded close
to fifty grants. Now in its eighteenth year, the demands on the Fund and the number
of applicants have grown since that first year, but we continue our mission to provide
prompt, confidential, and compassionate service to all applicants. Since the beginning
of 2018 we have already received more than 200 applications, and expect to help more
than 300 qualified applicants in this calendar year.
The Support Service
Fund helps qualified applicants with a wide range of essential services or items including
but not limited to breast imaging (mammography or ultrasound), chemotherapy, radiation
treatment, lab/pathology fees, radiologist readings, surgery/ biopsy, physician/surgeon,
hospital bills, anesthesia, travel expenses to treatments, breast cancer-related lymphedema
compression garments, medication costs, prostheses/bras, wigs/turbans, and many other
support services. We also provide emergency temporary living expenses such as rent,
utilities, heating oil, and prepaid groceries cards to people in active treatment
and temporarily too ill to work.
To find out more about the Support
Service Fund or to apply for a grant, visit our website here
download and print an easy-to-complete application or call us at 207-945-0008 to request
that an application be mailed to you. Call us if you need help completing the application.
Support Service Fund recipients wrote:
- “This program is wonderful.
At a time of uncertainty and high stress, this help really matters.”
“The easiest application ever! Thanks for easing my burden some.”
“I am so grateful for this program, dealing with the treatments and cancer.
Also, the after-effects can be very emotionally and financially straining. This wonderful
organization takes some of that stress away.”
The Support Service
Fund is currently supported by the Maine
Breast Cancer Specialty License Plate Program
Maine Breast and Cervical Health Program
contract funds supported by a Cooperative
Agreement from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; dedicated fundraisers
by many Maine organizations and businesses, including long-term supporters Greater
Bangor Women’s Ski and Snowboard Club, Maine Fraternal Order of Eagles Groups,
F.R. Carroll Concrete, Douglas Dynamics (Fisher Engineering), and Hannaford Supermarkets;
individual contributions by members and supporters of MBCC, and the dedication of
our volunteers and our Support Service Fund program assistant.