By Martie Thompson
If not for breast cancer, Hope Floats founders Kerri Henderson, LaQuita Barnhart and Christina Burget never would have met. But all three were top fundraisers in 2016 for The Donna Foundation and were invited to what is colloquially called The Donna Dinner. It was there that the three breast cancer survivors decided to pool their efforts to raise even more money and awareness.
Henderson said, “We also asked some fellow survivors as well as friends to join us. We all have strengths and all have weaknesses, which is what makes the group so powerful. And since we all have full time jobs and kids and do this in our spare time, it made sense to join up.”
At the new group’s first meeting, Burget suggested the name Hope Floats and everyone agreed. They also adopted as their Vision Statement: “It starts with a wish, it’s finished with a cure.” The group’s official name, to differentiate it from the movie, is Hope Floats to benefit The Donna Foundation. Lacking their own tax exempt status, Hope Floats operates under the status of The Donna Foundation, well known locally as being established by local television anchor Donna Deegan. The Donna Foundation serves women and families who are living with a breast cancer diagnosis. In 2017, its first year of existence, Hope Floats raised nearly $20,000 for The Donna Foundation and qualified as the top fundraiser.
According to Henderson, naturally the breast cancer survivors in Hope Floats have personal motivation to end the bureaucracy some women have with insurance companies and to get awareness out about the importance of early detection. But she marvels at those in the group — eight of Hope Floats’ 11 board members — who have not personally been affected by breast cancer and who still work tirelessly.
“The fact that they are pouring their hearts and souls into this is unbelievable,” she said. “It’s extraordinary that they do what they do.”
In 2018, Henderson said the group decided to focus on just three major events instead of a lot of smaller ones, hoping to make a bigger impact and raise even more funds.
The first event of the fundraising season is the second annual Block Party, to be held at Taps Bar and Grill on County Road 210W on Saturday, Sept. 29 from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. The event, which costs $10 to attend, includes all you can eat barbecue as well as $5 beer and wine. For entertainment, there will be bands, kids’ activities, 50/50 chances and giveaways. Donna and Tim Deegan are expected to attend. Henderson said that while walk-ins are welcome, they encourage people to purchase advance tickets online at www.thedonnafoundation.org.
Henderson said the plan is for the second event to rotate and be new and fresh each year. For this season, the event will be called “The Many Faces of Breast Cancer” and will be held at the Cork Art Studio in Riverside on Jan. 26, 2019. Survivors will be shown through the lens of local photographer Laura Evans.
Finally, on March 31, 2019, Hope Floats will hold its second annual Shop Our Closets event.
“We have asked local women to donate gently used clothing and accessories. We put everything in a boutique-like setting where nothing costs more than $20. Last year we raised $3,000 in just three hours, so we know this will be a successful event,” Henderson said.
Henderson pointed out that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and fewer than 10 percent of them have a family history of the disease. Hope Floats is passionate about getting women to be proactive with their health via prevention and early detection. The ultimate goal, of course, is for women to not get breast cancer.
“Our future, long term plan is to be a liaison to link all the pieces together,” Henderson said. “There are so many great organizations locally for breast cancer patients and they all offer something different: support, education, financial assistance. You just need to know where to go.”
Henderson said Hope Floats is always looking for sponsors, including corporate sponsors. Donations may be made on the Donate tab of www.thedonnafoundation.org and you can keep up with the group’s events on the Events tab. For more information, call Kerri Henderson at (904) 657-9376 or email email@example.com or check out their Facebook page, Hope Floats to benefit The Donna Foundation (events, races, etc.)
Photo courtesy Laura Evans
Hope Floats committee members (front) Jody Palmer, Kelly Zuppke and Christina Burget; (back) Cristi Wagner, Cathy Trcalek, Cathy Murphy, Kerri Henderson and Chris Hobson