Answer to Cancer: Grand Harbor raises funds for cancer center

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – For the second year in a row, Grand Harbor’s Answer to Cancer golf tournament was cancelled due to rain.

But, the community known  as much for its heart as it is for its links turned out in full force last night for an evening of drinks, dining and donations.

Answer to Cancer is a Grand Harbor charitable initiative helping bring together residents touched by cancer in fighting the disease. The event has raised about $130,000 over the past five years. This year, organizers hope to raise an additional $40,000.

The money is already dedicated to the renovation of the lobby at Indian River Medical Center’s Cancer Center. Last year, funds raised covered the cost of renovating the cancer center’s waiting room.

Don Casey, a co-chair of the event since its inception, went through cancer treatment five years ago at the center, located in a separate building to the south of the hospital.

He described the facility’s $1.5 million dollar CT scanning machine and the superior quality of medical care he received.

As for appearances, however, there was plenty of room for improvement.

“We need this place to look like you’re going to get excellent treatment,” said Casey.

Casey and his wife, Carole, helped establish the fundraiser with fellow Grand Harbor residents Bob and Carole Plante.

“We’re trying to punch cancer in the nose,” said Carole Plante, also a cancer survivor, who told diners about the new 40-inch television their donations helped buy for the waiting room, as well as the flower garden visible from the windows.

Committee member Rita Whiteman, who was draped in the last-minute raffle tickets she was selling, emphasized the emotional toll of the disease.

“When it’s done, this will be a very comfortable setting for people in a very difficult situation,” Whiteman said.

However, improvements at the cancer center are not only aesthetic.

Dr. Stuart Byer, medical director at the center, surprised diners with the announcement that the MD Anderson Cancer Center is partnering with IRMC in pooling data for cancer studies and protocols.

“All this money goes into the outside, while we’re working on our part on the inside,” Byer said.

The cancer center at IRMC, a nonprofit hospital, is a comprehensive cancer program providing all aspects of care, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, rehabilitation, outreach and other services.

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