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Angel Care 5K walk at Marymoor set for Saturday

From left, Angel Care founder and president Jan Harris and Executive Director Beverly Jacobson with volunteer Bobbie DeCoster (far right) with her family after last year
From left, Angel Care founder and president Jan Harris and Executive Director Beverly Jacobson with volunteer Bobbie DeCoster (far right) with her family after last year's Wings of Courage event.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

When Jan Harris was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer 21 years ago, she went to a lot of support group meetings.

From that experience, she learned that not a lot of people enjoyed attending those meetings — for a number of reasons. Two of which are that they're not comfortable sharing their story with many people and hearing so many people share their stories is not exactly uplifting.Harris said what she — and others — wanted was one-on-one support from someone who had been there and had experienced what she was going through at the time.

“They want to talk to someone who’s had (breast cancer),” she said.

Since she couldn’t find anything out there to fulfill this need, she decided to do something about it and it has been 16 years since Harris founded Angel Care. The nonprofit organization is based in Redmond and pairs individuals newly diagnosed with breast cancer — referrals — with breast cancer survivors — volunteers — who provide the type of one-on-one support she had been seeking when she was diagnosed and going through treatments.

ONE-ON-ONE SUPPORT

Angel Care volunteers are there for the referrals — who are typically women, though men are occasionally diagnosed with breast cancer — to help them through their journeys with breast cancer. This includes going with them when they receive treatments, talking to them over the phone or through email to answer any questions that have not been answered by their medical providers or just spending time together.

“It’s up to the referral and the volunteer,” said Angel Care Executive Director Beverly Jacobson, who is also a breast cancer survivor.

She said one of the things that makes the organization unique is the one-on-one support they provide. This uniqueness manifests through people from around the country contacting them about their services even though the Angel Care is a local organization serving the Puget Sound area — mainly in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties — Jacobson said.

All of Angel Care’s services are free.

When pairing a referral and volunteer together, she said some of the things they look at include the referral’s diagnosis, providers and treatment plans as well as where they live. This way, they can be matched with a volunteer who has had a similar experience as they have and lives close to them, as well. Jacobson added that if the pairing does not work out, they encourage referrals and volunteers to let them know so they can be matched with someone else who may be a better fit.

EXTRA TRAINING AND SERVICES

Angel Care volunteers are required to go through two all-day training sessions each year. Jacobson said these sessions feature various experts in the field so their volunteers are aware of the latest treatments, medications and more.

“Our volunteers have to be up to date,” Harris said, who added that since she was diagnosed, there have been a number of new developments in breast cancer treatments.

In addition, Jacobson said Angel Care occasionally extends its services to a referral’s loved ones, though this depends on the referral and volunteer’s relationship. There have also been cases in which one of Angel Care’s male volunteers will speak with a referral’s significant other to help them through the process, as well.

WALKING FOR A CAUSE

On Saturday, Angel Care will hold its 3rd Annual Wings of Courage 5K Walk at Marymoor Park in King County near Redmond. The event is a fundraiser for the organization. The walk will be from 9-11 a.m., though check-in begins at 8 a.m. Participants can register ahead of time or on the spot and the cost is $40. There will be door prizes as well as awards for various categories including best "angel wings," most number of walkers on a team, most funds raised as a team and more.

The presenting sponsor for Wings of Courage is NVIDIA, an international tech company that has an office in Redmond.

Chuck Scott, the NVIDIA site leader for the company’s Redmond location, said their company’s CEO encourages local sites to participate in their respective communities and for his site, the Wings of Courage event fit the bill.

NVIDIA became involved in the event through Pam Everett, an employee who had a mutual friend with Harris and Jacobson, who is also a breast cancer survivor. Everett said she suggested the Angel Care 5K to Scott and others at the office — which is mostly men — as something they could do together as a team and they readily agreed. The office will have a team of 33 participating on Saturday.

“It didn’t matter that it was breast cancer,” Everett said, referring to the fact that it is mostly women who are diagnosed.

Harris pointed out that even though breast cancer is a predominantly female disease, it affects more than just the woman. It affects their families and friends, which makes it an easier cause for people of both genders to support.

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