By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
CARTHAGE, Ill. -- A new Hancock County organization wants to help people with cancer.
Organizers of Hancock County Fights Cancer are raising money to help patients and fund research -- without ties to Relay for Life or the American Cancer Society.
"Most of us have been core team members of Relay for Life in the past, but we decided to make a change and go this route," HCFC board member Cynthia Huffman said. "We feel like we will be able to do more for our local people."
HCFC seeks teams and individuals from across the county to join in the effort.
Fourteen teams -- some representing businesses, others in honor of a cancer patient or someone who lost their battle -- already are involved. A team captain meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Marine Bank and Trust in Carthage.
"Some of the groups have been fundraising as they did with Relay almost year-round," Huffman said. "They have kind of taken on this new passion. They know they're helping their neighbors and their friends and have picked up speed, rolling out with all new fundraisers."
The Marine Bank and Trust team is organizing a garage sale for May 1 to 3 at 516 S. Marion in Carthage.
"We had a yard sale a few years back, but we haven't had one for a while," HCFC board member Ena Swartz said. "Every penny counts. If we only make a few hundred dollars, it's a few hundred toward our goal."
Other efforts underway are a raffle for a Kindle Fire HDX and a handmade child's teeter totter by the "Whoooo-ters" team and a 5K run/walk on June 14 sponsored by the "Running for Tess" team.
As captain of the bank's team, Swartz helps spearhead fundraisers from a bake sale every Valentine's Day to "jeans days" and the cancer awareness bracelets and key rings she makes.
"When you raise funds, you know you've done a good deed, and you get a lot of satisfaction," she said. "When cancer hits close to home, you see how people suffer, how it can affect them financially."
Fundraiser proceeds will be split between Helping Us Give Support, a local cancer support group, and cancer research.
"We are working with the HUGS group while we are still in the process of getting 501(c)(3)" tax exempt status, Huffman said.
Huffman said discussions about forming a local group began two years ago, with organizers spending roughly six months working creating HCFC.
"Most of our core group for several years would like to see more help in the actual county," Huffman said.
She said Relay for Life is a great organization working in larger areas, but "we don't see as many of those services trickling back into our community. They do a lot more education with their funds. Our group has a large passion for research."
Hancock County Fights Cancer will hold its first community event, a block party, from 4-10 p.m. June 14 on the Hancock County Courthouse lawn. Bounce houses will be available for children, along with entertainment and food provided by Sly Fox. All teams are selling Lights of Hope for $5. The bags with candles inside will be lit during the block party. The bags can be bought in honor of a loved one who lost a battle with cancer or in honor of a survivor. Photos of the honorees may be emailed to email@example.com for inclusion in a slide show. More information about HCFC and how to help is available by calling HCFC board member Cynthia Huffman at 217-357-8563.