April is cancer awareness month
ST. PAUL – Cancer affects millions of people around the world, and its impact goes beyond the physical pain and emotional distress of the patients. It is no secret that the disease can also be a financial burden.
The Haying in the 30's Cancer Support Society, founded in the early 1990s, offers a one-time payment of $1,000 to those affected by the disease, helping cover costs like travel, lodging, and parking for recipients when they must travel for medical appointments and treatment.
Last year, the society helped around 450 people, amounting to around $450,000 in monetary assistance being distributed.
Martin Naundorf, president of the Haying in the 30's, explained that the application process is straightforward for those requiring help. "We have an application form on our website, and people can fill it out and mail it to us. Then we meet once a month to review the applications.”
Throughout the year, the Society received an average of 60 applications per month. However, the society's limited budget means that they can only assist around 35 people per month, even though the demand is much higher, said Naundorf.
To raise funds for the cause, the society hosts its annual Haying in the 30's event, which attracts thousands of people from the community and beyond. The event is a celebration of the history and heritage, with attractions such as horse-drawn wagon rides, live music, and old-fashioned food and drinks.
Last year's event raised $323,000 in just two days, which goes directly to recipients. No funding goes to the society’s board, nor its administration costs. Since the society’s inception, they have assisted over 7,000 people.
Recipients over the years include Clarence Smith, 91, and Russ Kowtun, 80.
Smith was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1995 and had surgery. He had surgery again in 2011, this time for colon cancer. He said the society alleviated the financial burden by helping with costs like gas, meals, and accommodation.
“It costs a lot of money... but that's what Haying in the 30's does. They helped pay for that,” said Smith.
Cancer is a “very devastating disease,” said Smith. “It hits you hard – really hard... the world changes around you... you’re just alone and it’s an awful feeling.”
Kowtun also had colon cancer and was hospitalized for 30 days in Edmonton in 2010. His wife stayed with him during his treatment but had to find accommodation outside the hospital. He explained that while expenses for accommodation and other necessities can go beyond $500 or $1,000, the amount still helps.
Smith and Kowtun have also been involved with Haying in the 30s since its inception, speaking highly of founder Edgar Corbiere, whom they knew personally prior to his passing.
For Kowtun, his involvement is also inspired by seeing cancer’s effects on his family, explaining many family members have passed away due to cancer.
Both men have played music at the society’s annual fundraising event, up until 2021 when COVID-19 hit. “I always looked forward to joining [Smith],” said Kowtun.
“We’re not the strongest people anymore, but we did as much as we could,” he added, explaining their involvement is also about giving back to their community.
In addition, Haying in the 30's is also akin to travelling to the past, according to Kowtun. Many of the demonstrations are a “reality of my experience on the homestead,” said Kowtun, affirmed by both Smith and Nuandorf with a nod.
“We’ve all experienced it in our time... It’s a real-life situation for us... a part of our upbringing,” said Kowtun, reiterating how Haying in the 30's is a time to reminiscence about the past, looking back on the traditions of the pioneer spirit, and the values that accompany that spirit, such as caring for others.
“That’s really the core of why Haying in the 30's survives. People go there with the community spirit that they had in the 30’s. No money involved. Nobody’s getting paid. It’s all volunteer,” said Kowtun.
Summer of 2023
This year's event promises new attractions such as a post office from the 1930s, an old-fashioned music shop, and a display from the Cornerstone Co-op showcasing the history of the cooperative that served the community in the 1930s, said Naundorf.
The society will start preparations next month and Naundorf encourages more people to get involved as volunteers.
“We need volunteers. Young volunteers. That’s a big issue right now because a lot of the guys are getting older,” said Naundorf. “We need new people to take over.”
For those interested in volunteering, they can get in touch with Naundorf at 780-614-3545.
Despite the challenges, which include economic uncertainty, the Haying in the 30's Cancer Support Society aims to keep going, helping as many people as possible. “You gotta keep going... you just can’t stop,” said Naundorf.