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West Virginia Kids Cancer Crusaders raises funds, hope for families

By Clint Thomas, Metro Reporter
Royal Subaru owner Kelly Smith, center, holds a plaque presented to him by the West Virginia Kids Cancer Crusaders in recognition of Royal Subaru’s donation of more than $14,000 to the charity. The donation is part of Subaru’s Share The Love program that helps local charities.

They say one good turn deserves another, but a good spin can also reap positive benefits.

Case in point: A March 18 “spin-a-thon” at three Nautilus locations in Kanawha County generated more than $2,000 for West Virginia Kids Cancer Crusaders, a local entity composed of volunteers, families, organizations, medical professionals and caregivers who are dedicated to creating awareness, advocacy, support and resources for West Virginians affected by childhood, adolescent and young adult cancers.

Also, on March 29, Royal Subaru, at the Patrick Street Plaza in Charleston, presented a check for nearly $15,000 to the WVKCC, as part of the Subaru Share the Love program. Royal Subaru selected the WVKCC as the dealership’s “Hometown Charity” for the program, in which Subaru of America donated $250 for every new Subaru sold or leased to the charity of choice by customers from mid-November 2016 to early January of this year. By the end of 2017, Subaru’s Share the Love program is expected to have donated more than $90 million to charitable causes such as the WVKCC.

“Royal Subaru chose WVKCC as the hometown charity for the Share the Love Event this year in support of WVKCC’s mission to help West Virginia families of children with cancer,” Royal Subaru Business Manager Christi Smith said in a media release. “WVKCC helped us become aware of the challenges these families face, like traveling outside of the state to get treatment, the cost of accommodations, and, often, one parent having to quit working in order to care for their child. We at Royal Subaru have been amazed with how WVKCC and their volunteers support these families in their time of need by walking the journey with them and providing help along the way. The people at WVKCC become more than just an organization offering financial assistance; they come along side of these families and walk their journey with them. Royal Subaru is excited to be a part of such a great organization.

“Royal Subaru participates in the Share the Love program because this program greatly impacts a local cause. This is a way for our employees to get together outside the office, individually and organizationally, to take part in something bigger,” Smith said.

“On behalf of the West Virginia Kids Cancer Crusaders, we would like to thank Royal Subaru customers, Royal Subaru staff, and Christi and Kelly Smith for their time and commitment to raising funds and awareness for childhood cancer. This generous donation will go to aide children and families affected by childhood cancer. We at WVKCC are forever grateful for the support from Royal Subaru and Subaru of America,” WVKCC co-founder Marisa Skaff said.

Kelly Wymer of Charleston’s West Side, Skaff’s WVKCC co-founder, was spurred to launch the group after her daughter, Ali, was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. (A cancer survivor, Ali, 18, wants to pursue a career in pediatric nursing, her mother said.)

“When Ali finished treatment,” Wymer said, “I basically made a promise that we’re going to be out there in the public for these kids. Before social media, it was very difficult -- you couldn’t meet or talk to other families going through the same things. Ali and I stayed connected with the hospital and got to know other families.”

She also met Skaff at a governor’s proclamation program (September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month annually). “We talked and ideas evolved” toward forming the WVKCC four years ago, Wymer said.

Funds raised through WVKCC endeavors help families with out-of-town lodging expenses, gasoline, medical costs, utility bills and, sometimes, funeral expenses. Over the past four years, the group has assisted approximately 100 families, Wymer said.

“One hundred percent of the proceeds go to the families,” she added. “We give to families as we find out about them or upon diagnosis.”

Along with fundraisers throughout the state, the WVKCC has also participated in Go Gold awareness events at venues such as Sissonville High School and The Greenbrier. The group takes part in an annual national effort called Curefest for Childhood Cancer in Washington, D.C., each September, as well.

“We have worked with Camp Wanaka, which is for children with cancer and bleeding disorders,” Wymer said. “WVU runs it, and we recently granted WVU $2,500 to assist in running the camp. It’s all done on personal donations, and it costs about $30,000 a week to run. That was big.

“We need more people to know about us,” she said. “We’re small, but our Facebook page connects all of the families. My personal Facebook account has connected me with almost every family in the state that is touched by cancer. My vision was to do that, and it’s worked.

“Social media has been very helpful. Families have met other families through our pages and connected with them behind the scenes.

“West Virginia Kids Cancer Crusaders also partners with other organizations out there across state lines; we have partnerships with a couple that help kids in our state.

“Awareness is key to our funding. Childhood cancer is very underfunded by the National Institutes of Health; we receive less than 4 percent of their funding. It’s going to get tougher now; there’s been another cut made in their budget.

“Anything people can do to help us is much appreciated. We’d like to grow to a point where we could assist with research in a bigger area,” Wymer said.

For more information regarding West Virginia Kids Cancer Crusaders, visit or visit the group’s page on Facebook.


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