(Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- As community manager of health initiatives at the American Cancer Society's office in Sikeston, Marcie Lawson often helps fit women for wigs to wear after they've lost their hair due to chemotherapy.
Because of that, Lawson knows just how important it is they have access to the wigs.
"The patients that come in here are just extremely grateful," she said. "They're appreciative that it's here and that it's local."
The office isn't the only thing that is local. Funds to pay for wigs and other items for cancer victims -- especially those with breast cancer -- are largely from proceeds from the Sikeston Jaycees' "Tough Enough to Wear Pink" night at the rodeo.
"For last year being our first year, I think (the response) was outstanding," said Brent Barber, a Jaycee who serves as ticket office chairman and on the rodeo board of directors.
T-shirts, hats, bracelets, koozie cups and magnets are sold at several locations, with all proceeds going to the ACS. Raffle tickets are sold for three assorted baskets, and $1 from the sale of each Wednesday ticket is also donated to the fund. Other organizations also do their own fundraisers, such as Food Giant's horse raffle and fundraisers by the Charleston Fighting Squirrels baseball team.
Last year, more than $14,000 was raised. That money stayed in Sikeston and was spent on 70 wigs, 50 mastectomy bras, 20 turbans, 10 new breast prosthesis and 100 cases of Boost, a nutritional energy drink, Lawson said. "We would not have as much for the people in Southeast Missouri if it wasn't for the 'Tough Enough to Wear Pink'," she said.
This year, organizers hope to raise $20,000.
"We've got a better entertainer this year for that night, so hopefully that will help out a little bit," Barber said of musical group Sugarland's popularity. As of Monday, 50 percent of the tickets were sold.
This year's shirt is also gray with pink tones, to encourage more men to wear them, he said.
Donations are critical for the supplies, which are purchases through donation money.
Wigs, for instance, cost the ACS between $65 and $120, Lawson said.
All colors of wigs -- including those with highlights -- in assorted hairstyles line the shelves in a room in the back of the Sikeston ACS office.
"People get to pick their wig out from the stock," Lawson said. She and another employee help fit women for the wigs.
Norma Tangburn of Sikeston knows just how important the wigs are.
"When I had my first chemo treatment, I went directly from the doctor's office to the cancer society office," she said. "I got this great wig that just saved my life."
Tangburn said her hair is beginning to grow back, but is only about a half-
inch long, so she still isn't comfortable without wearing one. "Even though you're happy to give up your hair in order to get cancer free, still when you go out in public, certain people look at you like 'Oh my goodness, what happened to her,'" she said.
Jan Mason of Sikeston has also benefitted from the "Tough Enough to Wear Pink" proceeds. She's gotten wigs and scarves. "They're very helpful in the summer time because it's so hot with a wig," she said.
Both cancer patients agreed the campaign has raised breast cancer awareness in the area.
"This year it's been brought out quite a bit more," Mason said.
Barber said he hopes that awareness continues to grow. "This is a project and I can only see it growing," he said. "In the next four or five years, I can really see it taking off."
Want to help?
Those who want to donate to the cause can do more than show up at the Aug. 8 rodeo. Merchandise, including T-shirts, hats, bracelets, koozie cups and car magnets are also for sale at the following locations:
* The American Cancer Society, 201 N. New Madrid
* The Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce, 1 Industrial Drive
* Dr. Muhammad Salamat's office, 1118 N. Main in Sikeston
* The rodeo ticket office, 1220 N. Ingram Road
Raffle tickets are also on sale for $2 each or six for $10 from any Jaycee and at these locations. Three assorted baskets will be raffled, each with donated items from area businesses, will be raffled off before Sugarland takes the stage at next Wednesday's performance. Any organization interested in donating can call Marcie Lawson, 471-1823.