Spokane Journal of Business

Cancer Care Fund’s fundraising goes into full swing

8-year-old organization supports cancer patients, families in INW

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At 8 years old, Mason Diamond, of Spokane, was like a lot of kids. The active youngster loved playing sports, hanging out with friends, and spending time with his doting parents and carefree siblings.

But Mason’s world took a daunting turn on Sept. 30, 2021, when he was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that was detected in his fingertip. The disease typically occurs in children and young adults.

The worry and dread that came with the diagnosis spurred many questions from Mason’s parents, Tara and Jordan.

“It was really scary. We weren’t sure how to face it,” Tara says. “How does any parent deal with something like this? How could we comfort Mason and get through this as a family?”

While Mason was undergoing treatment that ultimately included 14 rounds of chemotherapy and the removal of his afflicted fingertip, his parents learned about Community Cancer Fund, a Spokane-based nonprofit with a mission to help cancer patients and their families in the greater Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area.

CCF, headquartered in the Cutter Tower, at 510 W. Riverside, in downtown Spokane, works closely with several Inland Northwest hospitals, cancer treatment facilities and organizations, and youth-based groups to provide support to cancer patients and their families.

“The only way to fight cancer at the local level is with local programs and assistance,” says Jon Neill, CCF’s executive director.

CCF raises millions of dollars annually to support its cause. Its primary fundraiser is its annual Showcase celebrity golf tournament hosted at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course. Last year, the event raised $6 million. Neill says he’s confident that more will be raised this year.

Since its inception in 2014, CCF has raised over $28 million through its annual event to help Inland Northwest families and their loved ones battling cancer.

This year’s Showcase fundraiser celebrity golf tournament is scheduled to be held July 27-29 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course. The general admission price for spectators isn’t set yet, but the showcasegolf.com website says tickets will go on sale in May.

“It’s the centerpiece of our fundraising efforts,” Neill says. “It’s bringing together the community, local sponsors, donors, and celebrities who likewise believe in our cause.”

Last year’s event attracted big-time sports standouts, including NHL legend Wayne Gretzky and  former NFL stars Marcus Allen, John Elway, and Mark Rypien.

“These are all celebrities who are very passionate about what we do,” Neill says.

Members of the Gonzaga University men’s basketball team also are involved with CCF and its efforts.

The money raised supports local cancer patients and their families, mostly through lodging accommodations and youth-oriented activities, such as family camping opportunities. The organization also provides gas vouchers for families who live outside the immediate area.

Having the support and means to offset the traumatic experience of a child’s battle with cancer was especially important, Tara says.

Last summer, CCF funded a retreat for the Diamonds to Camp Goodtimes, a YMCA youth camp that is medically supported by pediatric and oncology physicians and nurses and is offered free of charge for children affected by cancer.

The experience was incredible for Mason and the entire Diamond family, Tara says.

“He was jumping off diving boards … and loving to be a kid again,” she says. “It was our first vacation in a long time. For us to be able to have a stress-free getaway—not having to worry about meals or lodging—was amazing.”

Ryan Gee, owner of Liberty Lake-based Gee Automotive Cos. and a co-founder and board member of CCF, says being able to provide support to the families of young cancer patients through healthy distractions like Camp Goodtimes is rewarding.

“It gives kids a week to look beyond what they’re dealing with to just be a kid,” he says.

Gee says the money donated to the organization provides families in troubled times with peace of mind.

“We understand the negative economic impact on families dealing with cancer. It’s staggering,” he says. “For example, bankruptcy rates among these families are astronomical. Even with good insurance. There is an impact on jobs, travel expenses, and temporarily relocating.”

Other CCF co-founders, who also are on CCF’s 12-member board, include Jerid Keefer, of 312 group, and Fritz Wolff, of The Wolff Co., both of Spokane.

The organization has three employees. Neill, who recently was named executive director of CCF, says community involvement is critical to the organization, which has seen growth in generosity year after year.

“When it comes to the economy and people’s willingness to give, it works both ways. During tough economic times like we are facing now, there are hardships for a local organization to raise (money), because money is tight.” Neill adds. “Similarly, there are hardships for local families dealing with difficult times as they struggle to make ends meet. That makes our need even greater, and the community has responded.”

For kids like Mason, who is now in remission, the support provided by CCF has meant a lot to the Diamond family. An avid Gonzaga basketball fan, Mason wanted to meet the team’s players.

“He got to meet the entire 2022-23 team,” his mother says. “He got autographs, and it was a personal one-on-one experience; he even got high-fives. To this day, he wears a smile on his face.”

Five Gonzaga men’s basketball players teamed up with the Community Cancer Fund, taking a recent trip to Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital to visit kids battling cancer. Players Rasir Bolton, Nolan Hickman, Malachi Smith, Hunter Sallis, and Julian Strawther, all of whom also participated in CCF Assists pledge drive, walked the pediatric cancer wing, handing out autographs, shirts, and lots of high-fives.

Neill says, “We have people all over the country who see the impact we’re making, and the support is growing.”

  • Keith Erickson

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