Nurses at Wellmont Cancer Institute Facility in Kingsport Raise $64,000 for Patient Assistance Fund

Aug. 12, 2016 – Throughout their careers, cancer nurses are accustomed to delivering compassionate and lifesaving care and play an integral role in championing for the needs of the patients entrusted to their care.

One group of nurses, who see patients at the Wellmont Cancer Institute’s facility on West Stone Drive in Kingsport, demonstrated extraordinary leadership this spring in identifying a way to make everyday financial challenges some patients experience become a little lighter. These dedicated professionals organized Run 4 His Glory, a 5K run and walk, which was held April 30 at Warriors Path State Park to support the cancer patient assistance fund.

The event was a major success, with about 450 people participating, including some cancer survivors, and assistance from Preaching Christ Church. The nurses raised $64,000 for the cancer patient assistance fund at the Allandale facility on Stone Drive and recently presented the money to Wellmont Foundation. The foundation oversees the fund and works with the cancer institute to assist patients with financial needs.

“Cancer is a life-changing diagnosis, and our physicians, nurses and other medical professionals are present every step of the way to give our patients strength and hope,” said Sue Lindenbusch, the cancer institute’s senior vice president. “The expense of treatment can place an undue burden on a patient’s finances and create additional stress. Recognizing that reality, our nurses sprang into action to help them and produced an amazing event that will allow our patients to focus more on healing.”

The patient assistance fund provides practical support for patient needs outside the health care facility, such as utility bills, medicine and transportation to treatments and physician visits. The support for transportation is beneficial for those who have to drive long distances, sometimes more than an hour, to receive treatment.

“We’re grateful to receive tremendous support for the cancer patient assistance fund from the community and our co-workers and physicians,” said Todd Norris, Wellmont Health System’s senior vice president for system advancement and the foundation’s president. “These nurses took this commitment several steps forward and inspired the region and our organization with their actions. We value this partnership and know it will have a positive effect on patients.”

Monique Qualls, a registered nurse at the Kingsport facility, said she was led by God to spearhead the run and walk. She said she thought of the idea after she and her daughters read a devotional on Hebrews 12, which talks about running the race of life with endurance. The family had just completed a run, and it dawned on her the cancer institute should host a race to support the patient assistance fund.

In addition to raising a family, Qualls was attending graduate school and working full time at the Stone Drive facility, so she was hesitant at first to proceed.

“I said, ‘God, have you seen my schedule?’” Qualls said.

But she could not stop thinking about the idea and decided to proceed because she was convinced God was leading her to organize this event. She started researching how to arrange a race and talked to local running companies – and prayed a lot. She shared her idea with co-workers, who enthusiastically joined her in the cause, and she received support from patients, who helped find sponsors, record registrations and organize race packets.

Co-workers who assisted Qualls were Jessica Bembry, Jennifer Cox, Shirley Davis, Sheri Lawson, Jennifer Miller, Megan Smith and Robin Vanzant.

“I was told not to expect it to do well the first year,” Qualls said. “We were expecting 100 runners. God just gave us a vision and we ran with it. It was great community outreach. I know God relentlessly pursued me to do this.”

The outcome far exceeded the group’s expectations, which started at $2,500 and climbed as more and more participants jumped on board. Vanzant said donations arrived from all parts of the United States.

Qualls and Vanzant said cancer institute staff members plan to hold the event again in 2017 and build on the momentum they achieved. Front and center in their minds are the patients they serve who will not have to think so much about the financial pressure cancer can bring.

“Our patients are the best,” Vanzant said. “We get so attached to our patients. They are such a blessing to us.”

The next fundraiser for the cancer institute’s patient assistance fund will be Friends for the Fight. This dinner, which will also include a silent auction and entertainment, will be held Saturday, Sept. 17, at 6 p.m. at the Kingsport Farmers Market. Preaching Christ Church is conducting this event, with assistance from the cancer institute.

Learn more about the cancer institute. Anyone who wants to donate to the cancer patient assistance fund can visit www.wellmontfoundation.org.