About 80 take part in walk for cancer support group Wig Bank

May. 11, 2013 @ 09:46 PM

The nearly 100 people milling around outside Lenoir's United Presbyterian Church on Pennell Avenue Saturday morning could have been plucked from any town festival or farmer’s market crowd. There were parents and single people, children ran past and tossed bean bags, and women and men watched.

They could be anyone.

Just like the cancer victims they had gathered to support.

People like Jenny Kent, who had a double-mastectomy in 2009 at age 47. She was living in Concord at the time, and there were no groups like the Wig Bank of Caldwell County, the organization that drew everyone to the church parking lot Saturday for the group’s annual Wig Walk fundraiser.

“The only people I had who were support … were ladies in their 70s. I had nobody young,” Kent said.

There were no support groups and no help beyond her doctor to find services that might be available for cancer patients.

But since 1998, cancer patients in Caldwell County – there are about 10 new cancer patients every month here, and the average age is about 40 – have had the Wig Bank. As the name implies, the Wig Bank provides wigs for patients whose hair is falling out because of their cancer treatments, but it also provides support groups for patients and caregivers as well as other services, even yoga classes, said Carla Kimel, public relations director for Members Credit Union, sponsor of the Wig Walk.

“If it wasn’t for the Wig Bank, a lot of people in Caldwell County would have to go to places like Charlotte or Winston-Salem for these services,” Kimel said.

Crystal Dula, the cancer program coordinator for McCreary Cancer Center, is one of the first contacts patients have to find those support services. She said local residents don’t realize how unusual it is in any community, let alone a rural one, to have a group like the Wig Bank.

“It’s totally different than any cancer partnership I’ve ever seen,” she said.

“There is support out there,” she said. “There is something for everyone.”

And cancer patients feel suddenly exposed and vulnerable. Having support nearby makes a lot of difference, Kent said.

“Until you walk this road, it’s just much different looking in,” she said.

About 80 people signed up for the 2½-mile Wig Walk, which was expected to raise around $5,000. The Wig Bank has no paid staff, so all the money raised supports its operation.