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Loss unifies foundation volunteers

Each Soulful Giving Foundation board member has a personal tie to cancer.

Whether it’s a friend, family member or loved one, the eight volunteers have felt that devastating loss. It’s not a requirement to serve on the board for the foundation dedicated to cancer research, but as SGF President Linda Yoshida said, it’s “just a sad fact of reality that unifies our commitment and re-enforces our dedication to accomplishing our goals.”CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: SOULFUL GIVING FOUNDATION - Linda Yoshida, left, and Michelle Guthrie attend last years Soulful Giving Foundation blanket concert as board members who work to raise money for cancer research.

Inspired by continued loss in the family, the Yoshidas started the foundation five years ago. With its blanket concert held on the Yoshidas’ estate, the foundation’s now-annual summer fundraising event generates resources for various cancer organizations including Providence Cancer Center, Randall Children’s Hospital and the American Cancer Society,

Putting the event together isn’t easy, Yoshida said, but wouldn’t be possible at all without board members who dedicate their free time to a cause they find worthy. The members aren’t paid, she noted, emphasizing it’s their personal influences that drive them.

“We are proud of the fact that everyone volunteers their time and services and, in the process of building a strong, independent organization, have become great friends who unconditionally support one another,” she said. “I believe I can say in all truth that no other nonprofit in Oregon state has the support of so many government officials and state legislators.”

The event has had such an impact in the community that Gov. Kate Brown recently proclaimed Aug. 1 — the date of the concert — Oregon’s Children’s Cancer Awareness Day.

Yoshida said this only stresses the importance of supporting this cause, but you don’t have to look further than the Soulful Giving Foundation board to notice what an impact cancer has on individuals.

Beyond the “lucky” ones

Madi Deotsch, for example, has experienced the devastation of cancer her entire life, starting with her grandfather.

“The smoke came through the hole from his neck as if from a scene in a horror movie,” she said. “My paternal grandfather, who could have doubled for Clark Gable, had metamorphosed into this dying man,” she said. “A few years later, my beloved BaBa (my maternal grandfather) was also the shell of the strong carpenter he had once been. ‘Cancer’ — I heard the word again. My grandmother’s usual cheery expression had been replaced with sad concern. At a young age, I saw how this terrible disease affects a whole family.”

Forty years later, her sister discovered a lump in her breast just one week after receiving a clean mammogram.

“This began a 10-year battle with treatments, surgeries, experimental treatments and tumors moving from her breasts, spine, pancreas and now brain. She struggles to live to see her daughter marry, her son graduate from college, to be free of pain and the fear this deadly disease evokes,” Deotsch said. “Soulful Giving works to find a cure through fundraising and awareness. It is my contention and deep belief that the quality of life is an inalienable right for us all and not just the ‘lucky’ ones.”

For Diane VanLaningham, volunteering began at the age of 14 as a candy striper for Emanuel Hospital. In 1976, she took a course in oncology, and was hooked. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: SOULFUL GIVING FOUNDATION - From left: Board members Madi Deotsch, Linda Yoshida, Michelle Guthrie and Judi Swift enjoy the festivities each year but all have personal ties to the devastation caused by cancer.

“Working with such a dynamic and caring staff was amazing. Shortly after graduation, my grandmother was diagnosed and passed from thyroid cancer,” VanLaningham said. “I knew then that I was on the right path with my life.”

She’s spent 20 years working as a radiation therapist, and now performs bone density scans on cancer patients, transplant patients and “every type of patient in between.”

“It was truly an honor to have Linda Yoshida ask me to join the team of the Soulful Giving Foundation, but an even greater honor was bestowed upon me when I was voted on as an official board member,” VanLaningham said. “The caring group of men and women I work with on this foundation is truly remarkable. Hours and hours are spent planning and re-planning every detail and never with a frown but always with our mission in mind. We are a group of dedicated people with the goal of one day eradicating the world from cancer. But until then, we’re here to fight the fight.”

Staying active

For others, their relationship to cancer is more recent.

“This ugly disease has knocked on the door of each and every one of us and continues to destroy precious lives,” said Rod Purcell. “As for myself, I lost my uncle to cancer this past week. He is now resting with his first wife, who lost her life to cancer at a tender age just a few years after they were married.”

Board member Judi Swift noted her story is like everyone’s on the board.

“I have lost friends to cancer, and my mother most recently. Although she fought a brave battle and had remarkable doctors, she ultimately succumbed to this disease due to its rapid progression,” Swift said. “I was left with a huge hole in my heart and an increased determination to assist in any way possible with raising funds to further research for finding cures. I often find myself amazed by the outpouring and support received from caring individuals who realize the importance of joining forces and donating their dollars to where they’re most needed.”

Yoshida, her husband Junki Yoshida and daughter Erika Yoshida Watson have felt that loss time and time again, but truly believe — along with the entire Soulful Giving Foundation board — in being active participants for the cause, rather than writing a check.

“Rather than donate a check and hope for positive results,” Linda Yoshida said, “it is our belief that by being actively involved and bringing our community together for a common cause, we are reminding everyone about the importance of standing up and making a difference in our world — especially Oregon — when it comes to funding research and providing assistance to families affected by this indiscriminate disease.”