Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

December 7, 2011

Walk leader donates $30,000

Middlebury Walks for a Cure benefits United Cancer Services, HeartString Sisters.

GOSHEN — Nean Smith didn’t expect to be diagnosed with cancer, and she never expected her diagnosis to change her life.

Diagnosed in 2004, Smith had a partial mastectomy under the care of Dr. Laura Morris, breast surgical oncologist and medical director of Indiana University Health Goshen’s The Retreat Women’s Health Center.

When her treatment ended, Smith found herself searching for the meaning in it and felt called to do something to help others.

“I would wake up in the middle of the night with just pieces in my mind of what I was supposed to do,” Smith said. “God didn’t give it to me all at once; it came together like a puzzle.”

That puzzle came together perfectly in Smith’s creation of Middlebury Walks for a Cure, now going on its seventh year in existence. Smith has been astounded at the community support — from local businesses donating time and space to help, to friends and neighbors who turn out year after year to join in the walk.

“They say it takes a village to raise your children, but it takes a community to fight the fight,” Smith said.

In its first year, 119 community members came out to walk and raised $3,000, and Middlebury Walks for a Cure hasn’t stopped growing since. On Nov. 27, Smith donated the funds from the 2011 walk equally between two local services, United Cancer Services of Elkhart County and The Retreat Women’s Health Center’s HeartStrings Sisters.

“We had nearly 600 walkers and raised $28,100,” Smith said. “Everyone was there for the cause — and the money goes to two great local organizations. We stay local and the money goes nowhere but here.”

Peter Norton, executive director of United Cancer, said Smith’s work encourages the cancer patients he speaks with daily.

“When they recognize that so many people, right in their community, care and have been working to help them — even before they got sick — it means a lot,” Norton said. “The donation makes a huge difference to what we can assist with, but the support the community shows — that helps heal in an entirely different way.”

For The Retreat Women’s Health Center, the donation from Middlebury Walks for a Cure means that even more un- or under- insured women in Elkhart County will receive free mammograms through the HeartStrings Sisters Fund.

“Nean is an amazing women and she has turned her battle with cancer into a call to action not only for herself, but for the entire community,” said Laurie Urbanski, director of The Retreat. “We are proud to be a part of Middlebury Walks for a Cure and ever grateful that Nean has chosen HeartStrings Sisters to support through her efforts. As we continue to search for a cure, early detection is the best defense against cancer and Nean’s amazing efforts allow us to give more women in Elkhart County that chance.”

The 2012 Midlebury Walks for a Cure is set for Oct. 5 at Das Dutchman Essenhaus along U.S. 20, and will include for the first time a 10K run in addition to the traditional 5K walk.

“God always has a purpose and a reason,” Smith said. “I believe this is why I went through what I did — to help others. I have a passion for people, finding a cure and doing God’s work. I couldn’t do this without the help of (IU Health) Goshen Hospital, The Retreat and the people of Middlebury.”

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