Local Heroes: The Tumornators
This story is part of a series highlighting the heroes behind the work of Komen Great Plains—individuals who turn their fight from awareness to action. These heroes have committed to fundraising to show they are ready to fight back against breast cancer on all fronts – advocating for patients’ rights, funding life-saving research, extending community health outreach, and enhancing patient care.
As a patient navigator for Regional Health’s John T. Vucurevich Cancer Care Institute in Rapid City, South Dakota, Draeger works with breast cancer patients in western South Dakota and others across a five-state region, including some who commute for treatment from as far away as 350 miles. Draeger and others at the hospital see first-hand how long-distance travel and a lack of education on breast cancer can be barriers to patients understanding the importance of completing treatment.
In the summer of 2017, Draeger and other Regional Health employees formed ‘The CCI Tumornators’ team for the South Dakota Race for the Cure® (now known as the More Than Pink™ Walk). The group fundraised and attended the event in honor of their patients.
Year after year, the team hosts fundraising events in the community to help educate others about breast health and raise critical funds to help vulnerable South Dakotans facing breast cancer. Anyone is welcome to join the CCI Tumornators team, but most participants include employees of the cancer institute, family members of employees, other Regional Health employees, and members of the community.
Since 2017, the Tumornators team has raised more than $20,200 by hosting local community events like bingo, a rummage sale, axe-throwing and ¾ yes ¾ even a German-themed ‘Oktoberbreast’ celebration. The fundraising comes back to the community through Susan G. Komen Great Plains funding to help those with breast cancer stay in the continuum of care and complete treatment. Patients may receive gas cards to offset travel costs, hotel rooms for long-term stays, and food coupons to offer healthy food options during treatment. Through this help over 200 patients have completed their treatment which increases the prognosis for a positive outcome.
Draeger adds, “Everyone has their own gifts and talents to add to each event. We all do a lot of work on our own personal time, but it is worth it to us because we see how it effects our patients lives.”
Note: Since 2012, Regional Health John T. Vucurevich Cancer Care Institute has been awarded funding from Susan G. Komen Great Plains to help provide short-term financial support, education, patient navigation and survivorship services. Funding of more than $250,000 has been provided to date.