The words “Cancer Support Community” may evoke images of hospitals, of sterile environments, of more of the gray world surrounding the disease. But actually walking into the Cancer Support Community couldn’t be more different.
A bright door complemented with a flowery mailbox welcomes visitors to this home in Kalispell’s residential West North neighborhood. Inside, deep couches, wood floors, natural lighting, and a big, new kitchen create an immediate sense of comfort and familiarity.
Cancer Support Communities are part of a national organization dedicated to providing emotional support, education, and hope for anyone who has been touched by cancer. This could include cancer patients, survivors, their families, and their friends. All the services are free.
Creating a homey environment is an important aspect of the work at this nonprofit, Kalispell CSC director Schelene Browning said. And inside a home, the kitchen is often the heart of this comfort.
Though the organization has only been in the house for five months, before they even had a house to call headquarters, the Halt Cancer at X program, a fundraiser through The Event at Rebecca Farm, had already given them $30,000 for a kitchen.
Now, that kitchen hosts cooking and nutrition classes presented with funding from Halt Cancer at X, and brings together people through camaraderie and education. And just last week, Halt Cancer at X presented the CSC with another check, this time for $21,000, to cover programs like mountain excursions or sending whole families to summer camp.
“I just continue to be absolutely humbled by their generosity,” Browning said. “Thank you for believing in us.”
Halt Cancer at X is the brainchild of Sarah Broussard. She developed the program to coincide with The Event at Rebecca Farm — a world-renowned equestrian triathlon held annually in Kalispell — in 2012 as a way to raise money to contribute to the fight against cancer. The program focuses on breast cancer, which took Broussard’s mother, Rebecca “Becky” Broussard, in 2010. Rebecca Broussard was the founder of The Event.
The first year, the program garnered $65,000 to be divvied up to various organizations. This year, Halt Cancer at X brought in $130,000, with more than $60,000 of that money going back into community programs.
“It was amazing. The fact that we raised $130,000 just absolutely blew my mind,” Sarah Broussard said. “The community really supports this program, and that in turn makes us want to support the community back. It’s such a close-knit area and people really do care about each other.”
The program takes applications for these grants, and all of the local applications were fully funded. This includes $24,000 to the Save a Sister program, which improves women’s access to mammograms, education, and breast cancer awareness. The money will establish a screening and support program for women at high risk of developing breast cancer.
Flathead Cancer Aid, a nonprofit providing financial assistance to cancer patients, was awarded two grants for a total of $10,000. One will fund daily living expenses for the patients, and the other will provide money for nutritional food and supplements.
And Flathead Valley Cancer Chicks received $3,000 to expand their annual overnight wellness retreat for cancer survivors.
“This isn’t money that’s leaving the community,” Broussard said. “It stays here and helps its members.”
The rest of the $130,000 has yet to be awarded to national cancer organizations, Broussard said. Halt Cancer at X has become an important piece of not only The Event, she said, but also for Rebecca Farm in general. It allows for a productive, symbiotic relationship between the equestrian farm and the community.
“This was something that I came up with a few years ago to broaden the expanse of The Event at Rebecca Farm and make us more well-known locally and nationally for more than just horses,” Broussard said.
At the Cancer Support Community, continued belief in their mission buoys the staff and volunteers. The money will bring more people to this kitchen for cooking and nutrition classes, but also for the intangibles — beating the isolation that can come with cancer, and finding hope in a well-educated place.
Jennifer Young, community outreach coordinator at CSC, said the grant will make a difference in many lives.
“We’re really fortunate we got everything that we asked for,” she said.
For more information on the Cancer Support Community, visit www.csckalispell.org or call 406-752-0130. For more information on Halt Cancer at X, visit www.rebeccafarm.org/halt-cancer.