SANTA MARIA, Calif. - For 13 straight years, Cruzin' for Life has been driving funds towards local cancer care programs. Once again, the popular two-day car-themed Santa Maria fundraiser is steering more large donations to help out local cancer patients.
"This year we were able to donate $110,000 to the Mission Hope Cancer Center,” said Cruzin' for Life board member Kara Cole. “It put us a little over $900,000 (total)."
The large donation will benefit hundreds of patients at the Santa Maria cancer center, helping them during their often-times difficult treatment.
"Patients that have a cancer diagnosis, have a complete change in their life, not only because of their treatment, but also financially,” said Katherine Guthrie, Senior Regional Director Oncology, Dignity Health Central Coast. "Cancer disrupts your budget. We're able to help those patients, so 100 percent of those dollars is going back to patients to help support them during their journey."
Guthrie notes the money will benefit patients with normal daily expenses that can become difficult during cancer treatment.
"The $110,000 is going to the day-to-day needs of the patients,” said Guthrie. “We do gas cards and gift cards and grocery cards just to support our patients during this time."
Guthrie added patients often receive money for rent or mortgage payments. One patient even had their house retrofitted to accommodate a wheelchair.
“It just warms my heart,” Guthrie said. “For people in this community to be so generous to help our patients, to me, it's just amazing and unbelievable."
Evelyn Meyer has been battling cancer since being diagnosed last June. The Santa Maria resident receives treatment at Mission Hope once every three weeks.
"Everybody is kind and they treat you with respect,” Meyer said. "I just feel very good about the whole place."
Meyer is one of many patients who receive assistance through the cancer center's transportation program. Cruzin' for Life has donated a transport van and a Toyota Prius, which shuttles patients to and from Mission Hope for treatment and appointments.
"I appreciate it a lot because of the many appointments that I have, I don't know of any one person who would want to be bothered to take me, and it would be expensive to take a taxi,” said Meyer.
Held during the second weekend in September, Cruzin' for Life is a multi-faceted event that includes the popular car cruise down Broadway, car show and dinner and auction.
"Cruzin' for Life puts on the event and the community takes part,” Cole said. “It is the community that's the most giving and why we're able to do what we do."
Money is generated through both a silent and live auction, which annually includes an impressive array of items. Hundreds attend the event held at the Santa Maria Fairpark.
"To walk into a room and see 900 people that are there, it's just touching,” Guthrie said. “It's very inspirational for us as health care workers to be able to see our community help cancer patients."
"I think that it puts it into perspective of how people want to kick cancer and how giving our community is and even though it may be small, we're able to raise a lot of money to help a lot of people,” said Cole.
In addition to its $110,000 donation to Mission Hope, Cruzin' for Life is donating more $40,000 to other local cancer support organizations.
"This year we're donating to Project Lexi Brown to get them started with their foundation, which we're excited to be a part of,” said Cole. “We're also giving to the American Cancer Society, Hats for Hope and a few other ones."
One of the other beneficiaries will be Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties, which typically grants wishes to 65-80 children annually in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties.
As board members close the book on the 2016 event, plans are already well underway for this year's fundraiser, which is set for Sept. 15-16.
"We really hope we're able to reach the million dollar mark next year,・said Cole. "It would be such an exciting thing for our community."
For more information, visit: www.cruzinforlife.net