Festival of Hope coming to Mitchell Saturday

Haily Franklin laughs as she attempts to put a butterfly on her nose during the butterfly release at the 2017 Festival of Hope. This year's event is June 15 at the county fairgrounds in Mitchell.

MITCHELL — Now in its17th year, volunteers with the Festival of Hope reach out to help families with ongoing expenses they face when a family member is battling cancer.

The Festival of Hope fundraising event is scheduled for Saturday, June 15 at the Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds in Mitchell.

“Festival of Hope started as a grassroots organization,” said Sandy Romisch, the group’s publicity co-chair. “They saw a need in our community for non-medical needs of cancer patients who were undergoing treatment. Over the years, we’ve helped more than 1,500 families and given out more than $2 million.”

Assistance can take the form of house payments, utility bills, travel expenses, food vouchers and other everyday expenses that can get missed.

“Health insurance may cover the expense of cancer treatment, but when you can’t work the other bills can mount up,” Romisch said. “Festival of Hope is there to help people who need a little help and a little hope. We want to take away some of the weight of that burden.”

Festival of Hope starts early Saturday morning with a 6:30-7:15 a.m. registration for the 5K run. The run/walk event starts at 7:30 a.m. and a Fun Run for the kids starts at 8:30.

For runners that would like to preregister, forms are available online at festivalofhope.net.

The Knights of Columbus will be there, serving breakfast from 7-10 a.m.

Live entertainment is also going on and in the Events Center there will be live and silent auctions, a variety of booths, lunch and a penny carnival.

“For a $10 donation, you can also purchase a paper butterfly to honor someone who is battling cancer or someone who lost the fight,” Romisch said. “The butterflies are displayed on the wall and at the end of the day; all the names on the Wall of Hope are read aloud.”

Following the reading of names, an outdoor release of live butterflies concludes the event.

“There’s an old Indian legend that butterflies can’t tell your secrets,” she said. “If you tell a butterfly your wish, it will carry it up to God. It represents our prayers and hopes for those who suffer from cancer.”

Dr. Vince Bjorling, who practices medical oncology and internal medicine at Regional West, was among the group of volunteers that organized the event 17 years ago.

“I can’t get over how much support we receive from the community,” Bjorling said. “The money stays locally for the most part and supporting families dealing with cancer makes a huge difference in the patient’s outcome. It allows families to focus on the disease and not all the other expenses.”

One measure of their success is that people who received assistance from Festival of Hope later join as volunteers to help others.

“People feel good about the fact we’re helping others get through some difficult times,” he said. “We live in a great community were people take care of one another.”

The Festival of Hope in June is the group’s largest fundraiser of the year. In addition to helping families dealing with cancer, some of the funds help support cancer research and education.

“People never cease to amaze me on their generosity and willingness to support the cause,” Romisch said. “It really makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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