Prison workers raise money, awareness

Published 11:31 pm Friday, October 24, 2008

CAPRON — Employees at the Deerfield Correctional Center made contributions, walked, and sold hot dogs for the Breast Cancer Awareness Relay, held Friday outside of the prison.

Even some of the inmates made donations, which benefit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.

About 70 prison employees, many of them workers in the prison’s treatment department, walked from the prison gates up to the entrance on Old Belfield Road, then along a section of the highway to a field, where they would then cut back towards the prison’s parking lot. Workers took turns from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the walk.

The event raised about $1,900 in total contributions.

“We can help women — and men — who do not have adequate funds to pay for mammograms and health services,” said Cecelia Parker, a case manager counselor at the prison and one of the event’s organizers. “Several colleagues, they either know someone who has passed or someone who is battling (cancer) now.”

Darlene Ellsworth, another event organizer, said that 218 of the 1,080 inmates at the prison also made donations. Parker said their donations totalled nearly $500.

“Money to (the inmates) is very sacred and it’s kinda scarce, but they did make the sacrifice to help us out,” Parker said.

When asked how the inmates became aware of the event, Parker said “I guess they kinda heard us talking about getting it started. Several of them inquired if they could participate. Once we got permission for them to participate, that’s when they started filling out the money withdrawal forms so that they could donate to the cause.”

Ellsworth said 142 prison employees and 46 local businesses also made donations in the form of money and gifts.

Among the walkers were three members of the cancer support group Warriors in Pink.

“We call ourselves ‘warriors,’” said Suzette Greger, a Franklin resident. “‘Survivors’ makes us seem like we’re victims. I’m a warrior.”

Greger, who has been battling breast cancer for five years, receives treatment from the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth. She has also had cancer in her lymphatic system and her brain. This is her first walk associated with the Komen foundation.

“I’m still going through the treatment,” Greger said. “You name it, I’ve been on that medicine, and on it again and again and again.”

Jennifer McKenzie, another member of Warriors in Pink, found out she had breast cancer at 33. She said she had to fight her insurance company to get a mammogram.

“Thirty-five is the earliest you can get a mammogram,” McKenzie said. “(Otherwise) you have to have family history. Insurance won’t pay for it. The only reason they were willing to do mine was that I had a lymph node that was inflamed.”

McKenzie, also of Franklin, added, “I had to really push for it. It took me two months to get diagnosed. They just can’t take ‘no.’ I knew I had a lump and I had to do something about it.”

McKenzie said that she is now in remission.

Greger said Warriors in Pink was founded four years ago, and has about 25 members.

“We just lost two ladies within the past month and a half,” Greger said.

Warriors in Pink meets once a month, on the third Monday of the month, at Southampton Memorial Hospital. According to Greger, the meetings start at 7 p.m. in the East Pavilion Auditorium.

“We have a lot of fun,” Greger said. “We’re not one of these ‘boo hoo, feel sorry for me’ kind of groups. We laugh and joke and find the humor in everything.”

McKenzie agreed that the group has a positive attitude.

“We’ve never liked the term ‘survivor,” Greger said. “Obviously, I haven’t survived this yet. So what else are you going to call me?”