In 1994, nine women founded an organization called the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance. This organization served to support all those in the community facing breast cancer at the time. In 2007, the name was changed to the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes (CRCFL) so the organization could serve to help all those in the area suffering from different types of the illness. Now, in 2019, the CRCFL is celebrating its 25 anniversary.
Executive Director Marilee Murphy has been with CRCFL for just three months but has found that the community’s support is a testament to the original goal of the nine women who created the organization. Since the CRCFL is a small non-profit that is reliant on donations for much of their funding, they are grateful for the people who donate or come to events to support their cause. Murphy spoke about some of the ways the CRCFL has been working to live up to their motto, “No one should face cancer alone.”
“There’s a lot that we do to fulfill that mission and it’s things as concretely as providing free wigs and hats, support for the side effects of treatment with people losing their hair, mastectomy support,” Murphy said. “It’s sometimes providing financial advocacy where they meet with somebody who understands how to navigate the issues with insurance, or disability. It’s support groups, it’s one on one support; sometimes it’s connecting a person with another cancer survivor who’s dealt with the same type of cancer that they had and hooking them up as a peer-to-peer support.”
In terms of financing, the CRCFL receives most of its donations from its annual Walkathon. At the time this article was written, they had received $108,913 in donations, needing only $61,087 to reach their goal of $170,000. From the Walkathon, the CRCFL receives money to cover three-quarters of its operating budget. This year’s Walkathon will be held on Oct. 5 with registration at 8:30 a.m. and the Walkathon beginning at 10 a.m. More information about the Walkathon can be found online at www.crcfl.net.
The CRCFL has a strong partnership with the Cayuga Cancer Center at Cayuga Medical Center and has volunteers in the chemotherapy and radiation suites five days a week. The volunteers help provide patients with food, drinks and comfort. CRCFL has some staffers go be emotional supports for people undergoing chemotherapy. Others help assess what a person may need help with. Since the CRCFL is such a small non-profit, Murphy has noted there are some challenges to overcome.
“We provide all our services for free, so it makes us reliant on community support and donations,” Murphy said. “That’s always a challenge — for a small non-profit to be able to continue bringing in that money and continue doing what we do. I think trying to meet the demands that are out there with such a small staff is a challenge and, in order to meet that challenge, we’ve brought in a lot of volunteers and we direct a lot of volunteers who are willing to commit a lot of time and energy. We currently have anywhere between 70 to 80 active volunteers.”
A challenge across any and all medicine, CRCFL has struggled to reach some people in the farther reaches of Tompkins County; rural areas in general struggle with all types of healthcare. However, most organizations that provide services like CRCFL are located in bigger cities, like Rochester. Murphy said smaller support centers such as CRCFL can often be taken for granted but that she’s grateful that the size of the community allows the organization to achieve more impact than they might in a city with a much bigger population.