A NewDay for those battling cancer

April 7, 2019

La PORTE — A local nonprofit is asking the community to help give county cancer patients some warm and fuzzy feelings in the midst of their struggle.

The NewDay Foundation, a cancer support organization based in La Porte, will host a pair of fundraisers in the coming weeks: the NewDay Resurrection Race on April 20 and the 16th annual NewDay Foundation Concert & Fundraiser on May 4.

Proceeds from both events will go toward funding for the various services the foundation offers to La Porte County cancer patients, including the trademark teddy bears volunteers hand out to those on their first day of treatment.

The Resurrection Race, which will take place at La Porte’s Door Village United Methodist Church the Saturday before Easter, will feature a 5K run/walk and a 10K run that starts at 10 a.m. Playing off the event’s theme, runners signed up for the 10K race will “resurrect” the mostly flat 5K course at the turnaround.

The event will also feature a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon, an Easter egg hunt at 9 a.m. and a free 1-mile family fun run at 9:30 a.m.

Those interested in registering for the race may do online ahead of the race at newdayfoundation.com or may do on-site beginning at 8 a.m. the day of the event. Those who register before race day will receive a discount on their entry fee.

The May 4 concert, which will take place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Silver Palace in La Porte, will feature live music from the Predd/Kennedy Project, Cripple Creek and the NewDay Band, a group of local musicians who will get together to perform during the fundraiser. VIP ticket holders will also enjoy a buffet dinner beginning at 5 p.m. and will have the first choice of seating for the performances.

The evening will also feature raffles and refreshments, as well as the presentation of the NewDay Foundation’s annual Connie Yagelski-Marhanka Scholarship, which the organization awards to local high school seniors pursuing a career in music.

The concert has been the NewDay Foundation’s largest fundraiser since its formation in 2003, drawing between 250 to 300 guests. The show is a celebration the NewDay founder Connie Marhanka’s deep love of music, which helped her during her own struggle with cancer, said Brad Hindsley, the coordinator of both upcoming fundraisers.

“It’s a really fun night,” Hindsley said. “The music is always great.”

Both events the few times foundation volunteers step out from behind the curtain to share more about their work, Hindsley said. The nonprofit works under the radar most of the year, offering a helpful hand to those going through some of the darkest days of their lives.

Connie and her husband, Scott, started the foundation in 2003 to provide comfort to cancer patients as they underwent chemotherapy and other forms of cancer treatment. Connie, who was in the midst of a seven-year battle with breast cancer at the time, was inspired to create the organization after she gifted a teddy bear to a fellow cancer patient on her first day of treatment.

The NewDay Foundation continues to pay homage to Connie’s gesture to this day with the “Bags of Hope” its volunteers distribute to first-time chemotherapy and radiation patients. Along with the stuffed animal, each bag contains a hand-knitted or crocheted prayer shawl, a decorated journal, a relaxing music CD and other items intended to help patients feel more at ease during the turmoil.

“Getting a brand-new teddy bear brings patients comfort and joy,” Hindsley said. “It’s unexpected. They never would guess they would get something so precious and special on their first day of treatment.”

Scott continued to operate the foundation following Connie’s death in 2004 before handing the reins over to volunteers with the Door Village United Methodist Church several years later.

In 2010, the church expanded the services the foundation provides to local cancer patients. In addition to transporting them to and from treatment, the foundation helps patients pay for rent, utilities, groceries and other basic living expenses.

“It’s one less thing they have to worry about,” Hindsley said. “That way, they can focus on their fight.”

The nonprofit gives over $50,000 a year to cancer patients. Every cent the organization raises stays in La Porte County, Hindsley said.

Hindsley, who has volunteered with the NewDay Foundation since it began, is a firm believer in the nonprofit’s mission after seeing firsthand the relief it provides to cancer patients who struggle to make ends meet during treatment. Although he has never had cancer himself, he knows friends and church family who welcomed the support the NewDay Foundation offered them during their struggles with the illness.

“Cancer is not immune to anyone,” Hindsley said. “It has touched everyone.”

Those interested in learning more about the foundation or the upcoming fundraisers may call 326-7192 or visit newdayfoundation.com.