Wings of Hope Award winners announced

Wings of Hope Award Winners

We are fortunate to live in a community that supports cancer survivors in meaningful ways. We recently had the honor of announcing the winners of the 2019 Wings of Hope Awards, which recognizes individuals in our community who are instrumental in providing hope and compassion to cancer patients in Lane County. This year’s recipients deserve our appreciation for the difference they are making in the community.

2019 Community Award Winner: Shanna Hutton, Positive Community Kitchen co-founder

To Shanna Hutton, food has always represented health, healing and community. In 2013, Shanna helped co-found Positive Community Kitchen, a local organization that provides free, organic meals to people who have been diagnosed with cancer and life-threatening illnesses. With the help of teen volunteers, Positive Community Kitchen aids and supports families in the community who are enduring an exceptionally challenging chapter in their lives.

“I’ve been touched with family members and very dear friends who have gone through this process and who have had an incredibly stressful time getting through it,” Shanna says. “The only thing that I knew to do at the time was to bring them food. That little piece of support that we drop on their doorstep is our way of saying, ‘We are here, and we will help you through this.’”

In 2018, Shana and her husband climbed all 19,300 feet of Kilimanjaro and reached the summit to honor a dear friend who passed away from colon cancer. Fighting not only exhaustion but also altitude sickness, Shanna often wondered if she and her husband would make it to the top.

“Climbing this mountain was a deeply meaningful experience for us,” Shanna says. “I had my friend’s ashes around my neck, and I kept thinking, ‘If she could battle cancer, I can surely get through this.’”

In addition to honoring her friend, Shanna embarked on the seven-day climb—five and a half days up and a day and a half down—to celebrate cancer survivors everywhere who have endured the emotional and physical challenges of the disease and also to raise awareness for Positive Community Kitchen.

“In support of my climb, people donated money to PCK, and I am so grateful for that. But this journey was about so much more,” Shanna says. “It was about community and the power of people supporting people. I have never felt it so much in my life as I did hiking that mountain. And I feel it in the Positive Community Kitchen every week.”

Watch this video featuring Shanna and this year’s finalists in the community award category.

2019 Health Care Award Winner: Dr. Charles Anderson, gynecologic oncologist at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center

Challenging, rewarding and humbling, Dr. Charles Anderson’s work in gynecologic oncology has given him a better understanding and a new perspective on life.

“It’s a job of highs and lows. When it goes really well, you feel great and you feel that you’ve made a difference in the world. And, when things don’t go well, you really struggle with it emotionally,” Dr. Anderson says.

Dr. Anderson was instrumental in bringing gynecologic cancer clinical research trials to Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center four years ago. The initial trials were focused mainly on ovarian cancer and involved research on a national level. Since then, WVCI has expanded its clinical trials to include other types of gynecologic cancers, such as cervical cancer and endometrial cancer.

“Sometimes you get profound results,” he says. “I have several patients who have not recurred, their disease is completely stable or gone.”

Devoted to his patients’ well-being, Dr. Anderson believes in patient-centered care that goes beyond diagnosis and treatment. “A lot of this job is not medicine, in terms of giving people drugs or operating on them, it’s taking care of them and their families on a personal level,” he says.

Dr. Anderson says he’s seen gynecologic cancer survival rates improve dramatically through new therapies and treatments in the past 10-15 years.

“My goal in life is to live long enough to see ovarian cancer cured, and I think that day will come,” he says. “Gynecologic cancers are more treatable than they have ever been. What was once a deadly disease is now a chronic disease for many patients. Now, we hope to take that chronic disease and make it curable—and we’re getting there; it just needs to happen faster.”

Watch this video featuring Dr. Anderson and this year’s award finalists in the health care category.

Finalists chosen for Wings of Hope Awards

Hope Awards Finalists

The Oregon Cancer Foundation is proud to acknowledge individuals in the community who demonstrate extraordinary care and compassion to those affected by cancer. The OCF Wings of Hope Awards recognize those who provide hope in the face of adversity. An award will be given to one healthcare professional and one community member, based on nominations received from the public.

The finalists in the Community Category are:

Colleen Glick & Lisa Milton
True believers in the healing power of exercise, Colleen Glick and Lisa Milton are instructors with the LIVESTRONG at the Y program at the Eugene Family YMCA. The free, 12-week program helps cancer survivors overcome the physical and emotional toll they often experience during and after treatment by addressing side effects including lymphedema, neuropathy, range of motion challenges and fatigue. LIVESTRONG participants receive individualized attention in a group setting, and Colleen and Lisa are a big part of that. Their authenticity and compassion to help improve the lives of each participant leaves a lasting impression.

Shanna Hutton
Passionate about food and healthy living, Shanna Hutton co-founded Positive Community Kitchen (PCK), a nonprofit that involves teen and adult volunteers in preparing nutrient-rich, organic, no-cost meals for people fighting life-threatening illnesses. In the fall of 2018, Shanna took her efforts to support PCK to new heights when she and her husband climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa. Shanna used this once-in-a-lifetime excursion as a fundraiser for Positive Community Kitchen, but also as a way to honor the struggles and determination that cancer patients face every day.

Debbie Wright
When her 13-year-old daughter, Staci, was diagnosed with bone cancer, Debbie Wright did everything she could to help her daughter feel as normal as possible while going through chemotherapy treatment. After losing her hair, Staci didn’t want to go to school, so her parents purchased a prosthetic hair system that helped Staci feel more confident. Hair systems cost several thousand dollars, and Debbie recognized that wasn’t an expense most families could afford on top of medical expenses. In 2007, she and Staci launched the Angel Hair Foundation to provide quality hair systems to children in Oregon who have suffered hair loss due to a medical illness. Each January, Angel Hair Foundation hosts Shall We Dance, a dance competition and fundraiser, which allows more children to be helped.

The finalists in the Healthcare Category are:

Nikki Thaut
As the chief radiation therapist at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, Nikki Thaut found her career in oncology through guidance from her parents and partly by chance. Fascinated by the ever-advancing technology of radiation therapy, Nikki has spent 24 years caring for patients and their families, helping them through one of the scariest times in their lives. Her commitment to her patients is outstanding. During the recent February snowstorm, Nikki took to social media and called a local radio station, asking for help to clear snow from the clinic’s parking lot so that patients could get to their appointments safely. Her efforts paid off and, in no time at all, two gentlemen showed up with snowplows and got right to work, volunteering their time to help out.

Dr. Merideth Wendland
When Dr. Merideth Wendland was young, she never had much interest in becoming a doctor—now, she can’t imagine a greater calling. Seeing cancer touch her own family was a driving force in her decision to become a radiation oncologist. Dr. Wendland plays a pivotal role in providing high-tech, life-saving treatment to patients diagnosed with a variety of cancers, but who all have one thing in common: they want to receive the best care possible. Dr. Wendland’s mild manner and attentiveness to each patient helps to relieve their fear and anxiety while providing comfort and hope.

Dr. Charles Anderson
As a gynecologic oncologist, Dr. Charles Anderson is committed to helping women through what is often the scariest, most vulnerable time in their life. Seeing cancer repeatedly touch his own family is what drew him to the field, but it’s the strength and determination of the women he treats that inspire and drive him. Four years ago, he took patient-centered care a step further and was instrumental in bringing gynecologic cancer clinical research trials to Willamette Valley Cancer Institute. Since then, additional trials have opened at WVCI and more than 70 patients have been enrolled. These promising new therapies provide additional treatment options that would be otherwise unavailable to patients in Lane County.

The award winners will be announced on May 14, 2019.