The recipients of the 2018 Swallows of Hope Awards were recently announced at the Oregon Cancer Foundation’s annual Neighbors Helping Neighbors Breakfast at Valley River Inn, in Eugene.

The awards honor one community member and one health care provider who consistently go above and beyond to spread hope to local cancer patients. While all of this year’s finalists, nominated by the public, are truly worthy of recognition, the following individuals received awards for their dedicated efforts in supporting cancer survivors in our community.

Community category recipient: Shirley Lyons
When florist Shirley Lyons of Eugene and her daughter Toviana Jackson started Bras for Cause in 2012 to support Oregon Cancer Foundation’s Financial Assistance Program, they never imagined what it would become.

“We’re in the emotion business, and we help people celebrate their most exciting moments in life and some of the most difficult and challenging,” Shirley says.

After seeing how breast cancer impacted the lives of family members and employees at Shirley’s shop, Dandelions Flowers & Gifts, the mother-daughter duo decided they wanted to create an event that would not only raise awareness about breast cancer, but also put the fun in “fundraiser.”

“One of the things that Bras for Cause does is it engages people on all different levels. People decorate a bra, bring it into the store and then we display them throughout the month of October,” Shirley says. “During that time, the public gets to vote on their favorites, either in the store or online at brasforcause.org. One dollar equals one vote.”

With Shirley’s involvement and enthusiasm, Bras for Cause has grown over the last seven years, from raising a couple thousand dollars in 2012, to bringing in over $82,000 in 2017 with the addition of Girls Night Out, a celebration event that serves as the campaign’s finale.

For Shirley, the community involvement and stories that are shared by participants during Bras for Cause are just as important as the money raised.

“We have people who come in to see the different entries and when we engage them, they begin to tell their story about their own journey with cancer, or the journey of a friend or family member,” she says. “We’ve had folks come into the shop with their masks on, straight from their chemotherapy appointment, to look at the creation that they made as part of their healing process. Those are really special moments.”

Plans are underway for the 2018 Bras for Cause campaign this fall. Stay tuned for details.

Click here to watch a video featuring this year’s award finalists in the community category.

Health care category recipient: Dr. Jonathan Gonenne
When gastroenterologist Dr. Jonathan Gonenne was told that he’d been nominated for OCF’s Swallows of Hope Award, his first question was, “Who did that?”

Humbled to receive the award, but not one to seek recognition, Dr. Gonenne credits his stellar team at Eugene Gastroenterology Consultants, as well as our highly skilled medical community, for the level of patient care he’s able to deliver. As a member of Oregon Cancer Alliance’s gastrointestinal team, Dr. Gonenne works alongside other multidisciplinary specialists in the community to collaborate on challenging cases and identify the best course of treatment for each patient.

“Over time, this team-approach has evolved into a tumor board that has been meeting twice a month for 10 years on behalf of patients. It’s really made a difference in patient care, and I’ve been honored to be involved in that,” says Dr. Gonenne.

“Among cancers, we’ve really made strides in colon cancer in the last 10-15 years. We are catching things earlier. And when you catch things earlier, you can do more and survival improves.”

Dr. Gonenne’s colleagues say his dedication to his patients is unwavering, from his participation in community events to raise awareness about colon cancer screening, to his constant efforts to make sure patients are seen in a timely manner, no matter what.

“Anything we can do to get patients in, I think, is really important. Because we’ve all be on the other side of things where we’ve been a patient ourselves, or a family member or a friend has been a patient. Taking that into consideration and keeping that in the forefront of my mind, is an important part of being a physician.”

Click here to watch a video featuring Dr. Gonenne and this year’s award finalists in the health care category.