Kathleen Sutton was my first girlfriend when I moved to Kingston in 2000. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998. Kathleen was a very active member in the Kingston community and a respected business woman. She also was involved in the Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure.”
When Kathleen had a broken shoulder due to metastases, I started to drive her to the Swedish Medical Center for her treatments. It was during one of those trips Kathleen came up with the idea to have a fundraiser for Susan G. Komen. The first thought was to have a dinner around my dining table but members of Kingston Yacht Club had heard about our plans and donated their facility for a cocktail party. Before we knew it, friends and businesses in Kingston had donated items for a silent auction.
The Wednesday before the auction we were sitting on the ferry coming back from chemo treatment at Swedish and we had just bought ferry passes, car and driver and passenger. I thought of all the people who have to make these expensive trips to doctors. Having been born, brought up, lived and worked in Sweden where we are reimbursed for trips to doctors visits, it’s difficult to understand how people can afford the costly travel expenses. I suggested to Kathleen that instead of raising money for the national cancer organization, maybe we should keep the money and help women in North Kitsap with travel expenses. Kathleen didn’t think it was a good idea and she was very adamant to do it for the “Race for the Cure.” Because she had come up with the idea for fundraising, I left it there.
I drove her home to Shine Road and tucked her into the bed and she fell asleep before she hit the pillow. Late that evening, the phone rang and Kathleen just said, ”Let’s do what you said.” By then I didn’t know what she meant and when she explained to me that she woke up from a bad dream that she didn’t have money to pay for her trips to her treatments.
When Kathleen announced at the auction that we changed the mission it was very well received. We raised $5,000 that Sunday afternoon.
Kathleen’s health declined and we spent most of our time going back and forth to Swedish and we only helped three women during the first year. After Kathleen’s death in April 2004, I gathered a couple of women to organize another auction and I wanted the name of the organization to be in Kathleen’s name. She was such an inspiration to so many people and was loved by so many.
Since we started we have expanded the service to Kitsap, Jefferson and Clallam counties and also to women with ovarian, uterine and cervical cancer. The reason we expanded was that women had heard about us and just because they didn’t live in our county we couldn’t deny them help.
Thanks to all of our generous friends, private citizens and business people in our area and out of state we have had nine successful auctions. We also have received donations from organizations and estates. We pay for gas, ferry tickets, car and driver, passenger and parking ($10 at the facilities in Seattle). For example, it costs about $55 going from Kingston to Seattle, $85 from Port Angeles. Women who receive radiation have to go about 35 times to the facility. From the start we have assisted more than 500 women and from October last year until this month, August 2012, we have paid over $27,000. The amount we pay can be between $100 to over $2,500. Many women have told us that if it hadn’t been for the fund, they could not have been able to go for the treatments. Either put food on the table for their children or gas in the tank.
The referrals usually come from the social workers at the cancer facilities on the peninsula and in Seattle. They get in touch with us and we talk to the woman and figure out what she needs. But anybody can refer if there’s a need.
The need is bigger than ever. Most of our women come from Jefferson and Clallam counties because of the distance to cancer facilities. Unfortunately, the Kathleen Sutton Inspirational Fund is not a familiar name in these counties.
We are hosting an annual auction, live and silent, to get funds for our organization. This year our 10th annual auction will be held Saturday, Oct. 6, at the Port Gamble Pavilion.
Any donation, items or services for the auction or monetary donation is very much appreciated.
Kathleen Sutton Inspirational Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization.
And this help is all because of a dream.
Vivi-Ann Parnell is president of the Kathleen Sutton Inspirational Fund.