Cancer doesn’t stop during a pandemic. And neither does the Pacific Cancer Foundation.

Since its inception in 2005, the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization has provided a variety of services to the local cancer community, including, but not limited to transportation assistance to and from treatments; weekly support groups; wellness programs; a nutritional support program; and trained and certified patient navigators who help chart a client’s cancer journey from diagnosis to survivorship. It also sponsors visiting specialists, including a high-risk breast cancer specialist and a gynecological oncologist (specialties that are currently unavailable on Maui).

And all of these programs and services are provided free of charge.

Alysha Nichols-Sparkman of Equity One Real Estate joined the nonprofit’s board of directors in 2018. In light of COVID-19, she and her fellow board members made the heart-wrenching decision to cancel two signature events: Pacific Cancer Foundation’s annual gala fundraiser and Paddle for Life: A Voyage to Lanai. “2020 is the Pacific Cancer Foundation’s 15th year anniversary, so we had really hoped to do something special,” she said. “We were planning to have our gala at the Four Seasons in November, but had to cancel. We will not be doing a virtual gala, but will possibly create an online auction and are considering an event around Valentine’s Day, contingent on how the COVID climate develops.”

Nichols-Sparkman has participated in the annual Paddle for Life event since 2016. Over the course of two days, hundreds of cancer patients, survivors and supporters paddle six-person outrigger canoes in shifts across the ‘Au‘au Channel from Lahaina to Lanai and back (a 34-mile roundtrip journey) to raise money for the Pacific Cancer Foundation and honor those whose lives have been touched by cancer. COVID-19 forced the nonprofit to cancel this year’s event and pivot to a virtual version, a “design-it-yourself” paddling voyage anytime during the month of October.

“Paddle for Life is as much a program as a fundraiser,” she said. “Most teams have cancer survivors and everyone paddles in honor or in memory of a loved one that fought the battle with this dreadful disease. This year we originally had 26 teams signed up to paddle and fundraise, with teams coming from each Hawaiian island, the mainland, Canada and Japan. Last year we had individual paddlers from 13 different countries. However, once we had to cancel our event this year and go ‘virtual,’ several teams withdrew due to travel and various other reasons related to the pandemic.”

There are currently 15 teams registered for the virtual DIY paddling voyage. Among them is Nichols-Sparkman’s team, SGS Honu, which will paddle from Sugar Beach to Kaanapali and back (a roughly 50-mile journey) on Oct. 17 and 18. “Our team is hoping that our donors will consider contributing $1.20 per mile in honor of the 12th annual Paddle for Life,” she said.

Every donation will make a difference for cancer patients in Maui County—especially now. “Our cancer patients’ needs have been heightened during this pandemic… we need your support now more than ever,” Nichols-Sparkman said. “Please keep in mind that the Pacific Cancer Foundation is a local nonprofit, which means all of your donations stay right here in Maui County, assisting our cancer community, which could be someone in your ‘ohana, a neighbor, coworker or a friend. Help us help Maui and stay Maui strong.”

Want to create your own “DIY” paddling voyage to raise money for the Pacific Cancer Foundation? For more information, visit https://paddleforlife2020.myevent.com/. To support Nichols-Sparkman’s team, SGS Honu, visit https://paddleforlife2020.myevent.com/participant/1278437. To learn more about the Pacific Cancer Foundation and its services or to inquire about donor opportunities, visit www.pacificcancerfoundation.org, email info@pacificcancerfoundation.org or call 242-7661.

The Maui News – October 12, 2020

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