2017/2018 Grant Awards presented and top fundraisers recognized at the Promise Circle Luncheon

The Ozark Affiliate of Susan G. Komen announced at the Promise Circle Luncheon that it will grant $731,630 to fund 9 programs that will provide thousands of women and men with lifesaving breast health screening, education and treatment assistance throughout the next year. In addition to revealing the grant recipients, the Top Teams, Top Fundraising Teams, Top Corporate Teams, Top Friends/Family Teams and the Top 25 fundraising individuals from the 2015 Race for the Cure were recognized.

“The Ozark Affiliate is excited to partner with the 9 local organizations to provide screening, outreach, education and treatment services to women and men in our 10 county service area who are uninsured or under-insured.  At the Ozark Affiliate we want to make sure that ALL women have access to quality healthcare, regardless of the ability to pay,” said Vicki Cowling, Director of Mission Services at the Ozark Affiliate.

The Ozark Affiliate raises funds through events like the upcoming Race for the Cure, which will be held on April 22, 2017 at the Pinnacle Hills Promenade Mall.   To register for the race, visit the website at www.komenozark.org.

The following programs have been selected for funding by the Ozark Affiliate.  Applicants were selected by an independent grant panel through a competitive application and review process.  For details about the Ozark Affiliate’s grant recipients, visit www.komenozark.org or call (479)750-7465.

2016-2017 Grant Recipients

Community Clinic (Awarded $94,600)

  • Serving Benton and Washington Counties
  • The “We Are Aware” program provides a culturally competent continuum of care for low-income, uninsured patients in Northwest Arkansas through breast care education, screening, diagnostic and treatment support.
  • Outreach program called SISTA Supper, will educate minority patients through a small group setting where participants are able to ask the facilitator questions, schedule appointments and sign up for insurance.

Donald W. Reynolds Cancer Support House (Awarded $37,000)

  • Serving Crawford and Sebastian Counties
  • “To Save A Life-Survivorship” program provides breast cancer patients with support, advocacy, information, financial assistance and medical supplies, such as lymphedema and mastectomy supplies.

Hope Cancer Resources (Awarded $62,750)

  • Serving Benton and Washington Counties
  • Provides cancer support and education in Northwest Arkansas by focusing on access to support services with a focus on improving quality of life.  The program covers genetic testing, housing, prescription and travel assistance.

 Madison County Health Coalition (Awarded $55,233)

  • Serving Madison County
  • Provides a nurse navigator to advocate for breast cancer patients and educate the community on breast health.  The program also provides gas cards, lymphedema supplies and coordinates support group meetings.

Mercy Breast Center (Awarded 68,483)

  • Serving Benton and Washington Counties
  • The Mercy Breast Center’s breast health program provides a nurse navigator to work with all breast cancer patients through their breast cancer journey. The program also provides diagnostic services and continuum of care breast cancer information and education.

Mercy Foundation Fort Smith (Awarded $62,564)

  • Serving Sebastian and Crawford Counties
  • Provides education, navigation services, community outreach program and partnering with diverse groups in the community to coordinate the access to a mobile mammography unit.

North Arkansas Partnership for Health Education (Awarded $115,000)

  • Serving Boone, Carroll and Newton Counties
  • Provides comprehensive education, outreach and awareness campaigns to increase participation in breast health education classes, breast self-awareness training and access to treatment.  This program also provides screenings, diagnostic services, patient advocacy and transportation assistance.


Cox Health Foundation – Branson (Awarded $75,000)

  • Serving Stone and Taney Counties in Missouri
  • Provides access to breast care and cancer treatment for at-risk women by offering financial assistance for women in need of screening mammograms, diagnostic testing and transportation assistance.  A nurse navigator is also provided to help those diagnosed with breast cancer navigate their journey.

Washington Regional Cancer Support Home (Awarded $161,000)

  • Serving Washington and Benton Counties
  • Provides a breast health navigator and a bilingual navigator who offer specialized guidance and support to patients on their breast cancer journey.  The program guides patients through diagnosis, treatment and into survivorship while linking patients to financial and support resources as needed.
  • Provides also provides screenings, diagnostic services and treatment support.

2016 Promise Circle Luncheon top fundraisers poster

And last but definitely, The Breast Center was our top fundraiser in the Health Care category!

2017 Race for the Cure Honorary Survivor Chair, Nicole Bagley, at Casting for Recovery

Last year, Komen Ozark provided small grant funding to Casting for Recovery. This funding helped women like our very own 2017 Race for Cure Honorary Survivor Chair Nicole Bagley attend the retreat. Nicole told us that the retreat was “life changing” and that is not the first time we have heard about the healing and bonding with other survivors that naturally occurs during the weekend retreat.

Casting For Recovery is a national program that provides Fly-fishing Retreats for women who have had breast cancer.  This 2 ½ day retreat provides education and peer support through learning the unique therapeutic sport of fly fishing at no cost to the participant.    The staff of AR/OK Casting For Recovery is proud to announce this years retreat in Arkansas will be June 9-11, 2017 at the River Ridge Inn on the Norfork River near Mountain Home.  Any breast cancer survivor can apply for this inspirational and fun weekend.  Applications can be found at www.castingforrecovery.org and the deadline is March 31.

I am just one of the women that you race for!

My name is Marie Medina from Berryville, Arkansas. I am 42 years old and mother of 4 teenagers!

In December 2015, I found a lump in my left breast. I was without health insurance. I applied for Medicaid but was told that I didn’t qualify because I earned $1,600  per month (before taxes) as a cook and my husband was receiving social security disability. I felt like I had no options, I ignored the mass for six months.

Finally, I told my my mom about the lump. She called around and found out about Arkansas BreastCare. She encouraged me to go to the local health unit to see if I would qualify. I had absolutely no idea that BreastCare or Komen Ozark funding existed.

I was referred for a mammogram in Fayetteville and on July 15th, after a biopsy, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Through genetic testing funded by a Komen Ozark grant,  I also learned that I carry the BRCA1 gene mutation.

Not long after I was diagnosed,  I received a phone call from Mellonie Autry. She is a nurse navigator funded by Komen Ozark. Mellonie had learned about my breast cancer diagnosis. She ask if she could visit me at my home. She arrived and gave me a great deal of information and a care package to prepare for me surgery which was scheduled for the the following week.

I haven’t been able to work following surgery and chemotherapy. I was hospitalized for a week due to low blood counts and infections. I had to have the tissue expanders taken out because my infection would not heal due to chemotherapy.  It has been a long road to recovery.

Our family of 6 has been living on my husbands social security disability. It has been financially very hard. I have been given Komen Ozark funded gas cards to help with transportation to my medical appointments from Berryville to Fayetteville which is 110 miles round trip.  I have also learned that between Mellonie and Holly Gillies -who works for Komen funded North Arkansas Partnership for Health Education in Harrison – that if I have a need, they will help find a resource to assist me. These ladies know their communities! I have gotten help finding eye glasses and help paying my home gas bill. They go above and beyond to help me. I am very grateful for the Susan G Komen Ozark Affiliate because without their help, I might not be here today.

Race Team – Miles for Mendy

jeremy-storyJeremy and Mendy married on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2007. Just two months after they were married, Mendy was diagnosed with breast cancer. After having a bilateral mastectomy, she started chemotherapy and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for 5 years. Shortly after stopping HRT they met with her oncologist for a follow-up appointment and received the devastating news that the cancer had returned – Stage 4.

Jeremy and Mendy have 3 kids ages 12, 16, and 20. April 16th will mark her 10-year battle with breast cancer!  Mendy is the most positive and uplifting person you will meet. She is a fighter!

In honor of Mendy’s 10 year battle, her husband and son have started race team – “Miles for Mendy” to celebrate her journey and spread awareness about Stage 4 Breast Cancer. This will be their first Komen Ozark Race for the Cure and Miles for Mendy was one of the first teams to register!  They pledge to “Race” for an end to this disease.

Come out an support Mendy and all the other breast cancer survivors! Who will you race for? Put a team together and Race for the Cure! Visit http://www.komenozark.org to register today!



HB 1592 – Chemotherapy Oral Parity


Komen Ozark has very exciting news! Today,  State Representative Greg Leding filed HB 1592 related to parity between the insurance coverage of oral chemotherapy and IV administered chemotherapy drugs.

Last year, Komen Ozark Executive Director – Lauren Marquette reached out to Rep. Greg Leding regarding this important issue and the need for legislation. She asked Rep. Leding to sponsor legislation that will impact not only Arkansas breast cancer patients but all cancer patients. 

IV-administered chemotherapy is covered under a patients medical benefit, but oral drugs are often covered under the plan’s prescription benefit which may involve much higher out-of-pocket costs.

Patients should never be forced to choose a less appropriate treatment option simply because an insurer provides less coverage for a cancer drug that happens to be administered by mouth rather than intravenously.  Patients and their physicians should be free to make treatment decisions based on what is best for that patient.

High cost oral treatments may be out of reach for many cancer patients.  Financial barriers threaten the chances of survival since, in many cases; there are no equivalent treatments that can be substituted for the prescribed oral drug.

In addition, oral treatments can offer significant cost savings because an oral drug can be taken at home. IV drugs must be given to patients in a clinical setting where additional costs are involved in administering the drug.

Representatives Leding has a host of co-sponsor supporting HB 1592 – Representatives Murdock, Jett, D. Ferguson, G. Hodges, Lundstrum, McCollum, Richey, Whitaker and Vaught. Along with Senators Standridge, Elliott, S. Flowers, and Teague.

Komen Ozark’s media partner KNWA featured a “Doing Good” segment this week regarding the oral parity legislation. The link to the segment is below: 


Komen Ozark will be posting more about this important legislation, upcoming hearings and its progress through the legislative process. If you would like to learn more about Oral Parity or how you can voice support for this bill, please contact the Komen Ozark Office at 479-750-7465.

Latriece Watkins – Honorary Chair for 2017 Race for the Cure

Latriece Watkins Photo.jpgThe Susan G. Komen Ozark Affiliate is pleased to announce that Latriece Watkins will serve as the honorary race chair for the 2017 Komen Ozark Race for the Cure on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at Pinnacle Hills Promenade Mall in Rogers.

Latriece Watkins is currently Senior Vice President, General Merchandise Manager, Consumables for Walmart U.S. She joined Walmart as a Real Estate intern in 1997, and over 10 years gained experience in property management and administration, commercial transactions, property development and dispositions. Since 2008, Latriece has held leadership roles in Sam’s Club and Walmart U.S., including Divisional Merchandise Manager (DMM) of Adult Beverages and GMM of Snacks and Beverage. In 2015, she led the Ways of Working Enterprise Strategy work stream, a role designed to define how associates work together across the company to achieve shared business goals more efficiently and effectively.

“We are honored and excited to have Latriece Watkins serve as our honorary race chair this year,” said Lauren Marquette, Executive Director of the Ozark Affiliate.  “The Race for the Cure is our largest fundraiser and provides critical funding for local women and men who are in need of life-saving services.  Latriece’s support will help build awareness of the local need.” 

“I have tremendous respect for the work that Komen does to advance both research and funding for those impacted by breast cancer, said Latriece Watkins, 2017 Honorary Race Chair.  “As the daughter of a survivor, I know it is a whole family fight. I am delighted to advance Komen’s mission this year by serving as the chair for the 2017 Komen Ozark Race for the Cure.”

The Komen Ozark Race for the Cure raises funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer, celebrates survivors and honors those who have lost their battle from the disease. Participation in the event and individual fundraising help provides free services for every step of the breast cancer journey, including education, outreach, screening and diagnostic services, emergency assistance, transportation and research

This is the 19th year the race will be held in Northwest Arkansas.  On April 22, 2017 thousands of people will come together to celebrate the strong women and men who have fought or continue to fight this disease.

75% of net proceeds is invested in the local community and provides education, screening and treatment support services to women, men and families in the 10 counties served by Komen Ozark. 25% of the net race proceeds will be invested in breast cancer research through the Susan G. Komen Research Program.

Race registration for teams and individuals is now open! Events include a Survivor Breakfast and Parade, a timed 10K and 5K runs, non-timed 5K and a one mile fun walk.  Registration will also be available for Paws for the Cure, Kids for the Cure and Virtual participant.

For more information about the 19th annual Race for the Cure please visit: http://www.komenozark.org/komen-race-for-the-cure/



Meet Cynthia and Lila – Breast cancer survivors who have benefited from Komen Ozark funding

There’s a lot to be said for reading someone’s story in her own words. You can hear the inner strength they’ve gained from their struggles. Take a minute to read. You won’t go away unmoved.

Cynthia and Lila are two breast cancer survivors from Branson, Missouri who reached out to share how grant funding made a difference in their lives. They showcase nurse navigator – Marcy Keltner and tell how having access to a navigator made a positive difference in their breast cancer journey. What is a nurse navigator?  A nurse navigator is an educator, advocate, coordinator and often case-manager for patients and their caregivers throughout their cancer care experience.

Meet Cynthia!

cynthiaCynthia Toolen is a busy vibrant young wife and mother who was determined not to let cancer get in the way of life. Her story begins in mid-January 2015. “I brushed my hand across my chest to move my hair away and that’s when I felt a lump,” she said. She soon scheduled an appointment with her doctor and from there was sent for a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy.

“I’ll never forget the feeling I had when they took me into the room and said I had cancer, Triple Negative Breast Cancer.” Cynthia said. “As soon as my appointment was over, I had to go upstairs to my son’s appointment with his pediatrician. That’s when I stopped crying and wiped away my tears because I knew right then and there I had to fight and beat my cancer. I had two choices, I could sit and cry about it or I could do something about it.”

On Feb. 12, she went in for a single mastectomy. In all, Cynthia had six chemotherapy treatments and five surgeries. “I couldn’t believe how fast it all went,” she said. Cynthia was only 35 at the time – too young for a screening mammogram. Instead of getting lost in internet research and worry about “what ifs,” she focused her energy on enjoying life.

“We had fun shaving my head,” said Cynthia, who had long hair at the time. “Losing my hair really didn’t bother me. I had fun with it and had a couple of different wigs.”

Cynthia found great support through CoxHealth Cancer Center Branson Patient Navigator Marcy Keltner, whose position is made possible through a grant awarded to Skaggs Foundation by Susan G. Komen Ozark.

“Marcy was always wonderful,” Cynthia said. “I was nervous about going in for treatments. She’d greet me with a big hug. Before, all my treatments and follow up appointments, I’d go in and meet with her.” Marcy was able to not only provide Cynthia with an understanding of what to expect, but also provided her with items to make her journey more comfortable.

While Cynthia is grateful for all of the care and support she received throughout her journey, she said she hopes that other women understand their own strength. “Your mind is very powerful, never underestimate it,” she said. “You can choose to make your journey good or you can choose to make your journey bad. It’s when you choose to make it good, that is when you realize the strength you have and nothing can stand in your way.”

Meet Lila!lila

It was a year ago in July that 79-year-old Lila Tuter, of Kimberling City, discovered a lump under her arm. “The family doctor said I needed to get a mammogram,” she recalled. “Deep down, I knew I had cancer.”

In a matter of just a couple of weeks, Lila had 18 lymph nodes removed – five of which were cancerous. She soon started a year of chemotherapy treatments and 33 radiation treatments at CoxHealth Cancer Center Branson.

“When I went to see my oncologist, Dr. Gonzalez, I was referred to Marcy,” Lila said. “Marcy took me in and spent so much time with me, explaining to me how each of the chemo treatments would affect me and she also gave me a wig.”

Lila said Marcy’s expert advice was a huge comfort when life was scary. “I felt like I had someone I could lean on,” Lila said. “I had someone there, who I could call and talk to anytime.” Lila credits Marcy for where she is today. She explained that after enduring her first round of chemotherapy, she wanted to stop. “If I had not had Marcy talk me into it, I probably would not have finished that first set,” she said.

Komen Ozark also made it possible for Lila to receive gas cards to help with travel expenses. Lila said she was blown away by everyone’s kindness. “I have been treated like royalty,” she said.




2016 Survivorship Conference



Komen Ozark was proud to present the first Survivorship Conference at the Center for Seniors – Washington Regional Medical Center. The conference was attended by about 50 participants who heard from Komen Scholar, Dr. Danny Welch on advances in metastatic breast cancer research and Peggy Johnson, Komen Advocate in Science about how research is managed by Susan G. Komen and the role of patient advocates in the process. Dr. Thaddeus Beck – Highlands Oncology Group – presented on the latest in breast cancer vaccine trials. Dr. Danna Grear – The Breast Center – gave insights on screenings required following a cancer diagnosis. Dr. Stephan Rosenfeld – Highlands Oncology Group – discussed recommended after care follow completion of breast cancer treatment. Miki Biggers – Hope Cancer Resources – presented on the emotional aspects of breast cancer. A question and answer forum ended the session. It was a information packed event. Thanks to Rick’s Bakery for providing breakfast and Washington Regional for use of the meeting room and for providing coffee. Komen Ozark will be announcing future topics in the survivorship series.



Hope Cancer Resources – Wellness Program…a small grant in action

Small grants can be powerful and make a big difference! Continue reading and learn how Hope Cancer Resources is piloting an innovative Komen Ozark capacity building small grant.

Their concept… a wellness program for survivors. Breast cancer survivorship is one of 4 funding priorities for the Affiliate.

Hope Cancer Resources will kick off the New Year with a new wellness program to enhance quality of life for breast cancer survivors, their caregivers and family members. Their goal is to offer access to education and a variety of health-oriented activities including:

  • Personal Training
  • Yoga
  • Nutrition Education
  • Stress Reduction
  • Tobacco Cessation

Meet the wellness team:wellness_team_opt

Sandy Prince has a master’s degree in community health from the University of Arkansas. She has recently completed the 500-hour registered Yoga Teacher Training Program at the Arkansas Yoga Center in Fayetteville.

Abbie Sudduth will graduate with a master’s degree in community health from the University of Arkansas this spring and is planning to complete the Tobacco Treatment Specialist Training at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. in early June.

Casey Shelor has a master’s degree in community health from the University of Arkansas. She holds the Tobacco Treatment Specialist and Wellness Coach Certifications from Mayo Clinic. Casey is also currently pursuing her Personal Training Certification from the American Council on Exercise.

This is a great opportunity for 1:1 wellness coaching and participation in many activities to lift the mind, body and spirit.

For more information about the wellness program and services provided, please contact anyone of the wellness team members.

Casey – casey.shelor@hopecancerresources.org

Abbie – abbie.sudduth@hopecancerresources.org

Sandy – sandy.prince@hopecancerresources.org

All services will be offered free of charge at Hope Cancer Resources in Springdale. The program is open to all types of cancer survivors.