Original Article Published by Crested Butte News
October 16, 2020
BY KATHERINE NETTLES
Transportation, lodging programs have helped more than 44 patients and counting
Two families have recently decided to honor those they have lost to cancer by donating to Tough Enough to Wear Pink (TETWP), a localized cancer support organization in the Gunnison Valley. These donations have contributed to the organization’s transportation and lodging programs in a big way, reaching dozens of local patients. And these particular donations have come from people living in other areas of the country who wanted to make an impact in the Gunnison Valley after realizing the challenges involved for people to travel long distances from their rural home to get the treatments they need.
“A cancer diagnosis can be a long stressful journey and these programs help ease some of those difficult challenges,” says TETWP executive director Heidi Sherratt.
The “Betty Ann”
Russ and Celina Harrison recently purchased a brand new Ford Explorer, valued at $45,000, for TETWP to add to its fleet of cancer patient transportation vehicles in honor of Russ’ mother, Betty Ann Harrison. Harrison passed away in 1990 from breast cancer.
The Harrisons were at the TETWP Songwriter Shuffle, a live music fundraising event held in Crested Butte in August, when they learned of TETWP’s need for an additional vehicle for their transportation service. Russ had made a similar gift to the American Cancer Society in his home state of Oklahoma, and thought it was even more appropriate to give to the Gunnison Valley.
“I look for ways, and this one just sounded perfect,” says Russ of the idea to carry on his mother’s legacy of giving. “My mom was the ultimate community activist. I grew up in a small town called Lindsay, Oklahoma,” he says. The town of Lindsey constructed a memorial for his mother after her death to remember her contributions. “This is the kind of stuff she would do… I figured Gunnison County needs something like that. The fact is we are pretty distanced from everybody here, just like Lindsay is.”
The Harrisons have been visiting Crested Butte regularly since about 1976, and became vacation homeowners in Mt. Crested Butte about three years ago.
Russ says his mother enjoyed time in Crested Butte with his family and they have fond memories of here.
“She loved camping, she loved the mountains and she loved supporting Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts… She would really like this,” he says.
Russ and his wife worked with TETWP to find the right vehicle, and TETWP suggested they name the new addition after his mother. It is now called the “Betty Ann.”
The “Betty Ann” joins two other vehicles in the program, “Tuffy” the 2016 Ram truck and “Bucky,” a 2018 Dodge Durango. All are available to safely transport Gunnison County and Hinsdale County cancer (breast cancer or other) patients to medical centers outside the area. The trucks have travelled more than 95,000 miles and assisted 32 different cancer patients so far.
“It gets good gas mileage and I think it will easily and comfortably transport two to three people where they need to go,” says Russ of the “Betty Ann.”
“We are very happy to help. And we all need to stick together where we can,” he adds.
Sherratt says of the August event’s surprise, “This was so wonderful and much needed to serve the people from our community who need to get to appointments outside the Gunnison Valley.”
Another couple, Norman and Dorothy Eastwood, recently started a lodging program for TETWP, called Lucy’s House. Lucy’s House has been dedicated in honor of Dorothy’s mother, Lucille McElvain, who died of ovarian cancer. The lodging program serves any local cancer patients by providing a place to stay when they are getting treatment outside of the Gunnison Valley.
Dorothy describes their story on the TETWP website: “Norman and I love to spend our summers in Crested Butte, and for many years now have been honored to be proud supporters of TETWP. Last year we were unable to spend our summer in Crested Butte as planned. On June 6,  Norman was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer. Our life immediately changed, as it does for anyone who receives the news of cancer.”
Dorothy describes the next five months that were filled with intensive surgery, recovery and appointment schedules and traffic-filled commutes that consumed their days.
“Talking with others and hearing their journeys, we found that others often have additional challenges. One we heard many times over was the distance and time they were driving each day,” she recalls.
The couple decided to address the need for people to stay closer to their treatment centers, including the long drives to Grand Junction, Colorado Springs or Denver that those here in the Gunnison Valley must make.
Dorothy says that when asked to work on a name and logo, their first immediate thought was her mom, Lucille.
“After 12 years of on and off treatments, we lost her to ovarian cancer. She was a wonderful, loving woman who was kind, caring, strong yet soft. She was Mother, Mom, gram, friend, sister, daughter, supporter, defender, caregiver, protector… so special to many people, and everything to me, and Norman was her fourth son whom she loved with all her heart. We wanted to honor her in a way that portrayed her… always providing comfort and support for others.”
Since this program began in June 2019, it has covered 194 nights of lodging between 14 separate patients.
“The generosity of all of the people involved in the TETWP organization never stops amazing me and they are what makes it indescribably special. We cherish our donors who have gone above and beyond to help us create these programs that are unique to our community and help so many people going through cancer,” says Sherratt.