An event that has collected donations to benefit Mission Hope Cancer Center patients for the past four years expanded to Solvang this year, making it the fifth community where the Day of Hope fundraiser is held.
Organized by Marian Regional Medical Center in partnership with Lee Central Coast Newspapers, the fundraiser involves teams of volunteers who stand on street corners and sell special edition newspapers for $1 each.
About 26,000 copies of the Santa Ynez Valley News, Santa Maria Times and Lompoc Record special editions were printed for the fundraiser.
All the money collected goes directly to Mission Hope Cancer Center to provide financial support to patients.
Solvang Mayor Jim Richardson, City Manager Brad Vidro and four city department heads made up the bulk of the first Day of Hope team to be deployed in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Department heads who volunteered were Administrative Services Director Sandra Featherson, Planning, Building and Economic Development Director Holly Owen, Parks & Recreation Director Fred Lageman and City Engineer and Public Works Director Matt van der Linden.
“Cancer has touched everybody,” Lageman said about volunteering for the fundraiser.
They were joined by Santa Ynez Valley News General Manager and Account Executive Claudia Degado, new Valley Life Editor Lisa André and Mike Hodgson, of the Valley News, who served as team captain.
Wearing bright orange safety vests and working in shifts that started before 7 a.m., team members stood on the corners at the intersection of Mission Drive and Alisal Road, where they sold copies of the next day’s edition of the Santa Ynez Valley News to drivers and their passengers who were stopped at the traffic lights.
Richardson outsold every other member of the team.
“I’ve developed a slogan,” he explained with a grin. “It’s ‘Tomorrow’s news today.’”
During brief exchanges before the lights turned green, a fair number of people revealed they were cancer survivors or had relatives or friends who are battling the disease, and offered words of support — “Keep up the good work,” “Thank you for what you’re doing.”
Others who didn’t get caught by red lights honked and gave a thumbs-up sign as they drove by.
Many of the people who bought papers donated more than the $1 asking price, with a couple handing over $20 bills, several paying $10 and more than two dozen offering $5 bills and saying “Keep the change.”
Almost all the rest came in $1 bills, except for two $2 bills, four quarters and one donation of various coins that totaled 97 cents. A few drivers donated without taking newspapers.
By the time sales wrapped up shortly after 11 a.m., the team had brought in $327.97, which members of other teams and Day of Hope representatives said was impressive for a first effort by a single team in a new community.
Added to the funds collected by the 650 volunteers on four teams in Lompoc, eight teams in Nipomo and 44 teams in Santa Maria and Orcutt, donations not only surpassed Day of Hope organizers’ goal but also set a record.
An exact tally isn’t available yet, but organizers said the total was more than $195,000, which beat last year’s record of $170,648.
The funds will be used to provide financial help to patients undergoing treatment at Mission Hope Cancer Center.
Dr. Monica Rocco, who directs the breast cancer care program at Mission Hope, said she sees firsthand how Day of Hope funds help the community when she tells patients they can receive financial support.
“Cancer is a hard diagnosis to go through physically, emotionally, socially and financially,” Rocco said. “Sometimes when people have a lot of medical bills — we can’t pay for medical bills — but we can pay for things like utilities, rent, child care expenses. And that helps a lot.”
Winding up his shift in Solvang, van der Linden underscored the essence of Day of Hope.
“Look at this,” he said, pointing to a headline on the front page of the special edition. “‘Help others.’ That’s what it’s all about. How often do you see that anymore? ‘Help others.’ It’s what we all should be doing.”