The Northeastern Kingdom Cancer Action Network provides grants to those fighting cancer in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, while raising awareness and supporting cancer fighting causes to benefit all. Vote for them by April 30!
Mike and Jenn Barrett did not plan on working at Mike’s family’s agency. They didn’t even live in the area. Plans changed in 2007 however, when Mike’s mom was diagnosed with a reoccurrence of Ovarian cancer. With his dad needing more support at the agency, and at home, Mike and Jenn decided to move back to Mike’s hometown to help keep the family business running.
After Mike’s mothers passing, both motivated by his mom’s involvement, the couple got involved with the Relay for Life of Caledonia County, with Mike emceeing the event for many years.
From loss comes new love
Garth Leach was unknowingly walking a similar path to Mike. Leach had lost his dad to cancer and was supporting his mom through the challenges that follow losing a loved one.
When Garth’s mom and Mike’s dad met, one of those challenges wasn’t finding love again. The pair married in 2011 and naturally Garth and Mike became stepbrothers. The brotherly bond quickly grew, creating a natural fit for working on the board of Northeast Kingdom Cancer Action Network (NEKCAN) together as President and Vice-President.
Filling a need in Northeast Kingdom
Barrett’s mom and Leach’s dad were two of thousands of people living with cancer in the Northeast Kingdom. Another NEKCAN founder, Dan Copp has been directly impacted as well, with the loss of his father, having had his own battle with cancer, seeing a strong need to help. Therefore, NEKCAN’s mission is to provide direct financial support to as many of those people as they can and to use their platform to raise awareness around the need to fund cancer research.
The grants they provide to individuals are modest at $250 each month for six months but go a long way for those in need. For instance, in the cold New England months when oil furnaces need to stay full. Barrett says when push comes to shove, “We don’t want our neighbors to have to make a choice. We don’t want them to have to choose between paying for oil to heat their homes, food, or their cancer treatments.”
“We don’t want our neighbors to have to make a choice…between paying for oil to heat their homes, food, or their cancer treatments.”
– Mike Barrett, owner of Barrett Insurance Agency, and cofounder and board president of Northeast Kingdom Cancer Action Network
A community effort
While the nonprofit is new, they already have a big following in the Northeast Kingdom and are currently helping around a dozen people in the community. And many more are helping the nonprofit.
Donations come in from a diverse group in the Northeast Kingdom, from a motorcycle riding club to a local high school hockey team who raised money through selling raffle tickets and purple ribbons to hang up at the game to show support. Both the team and NEKCAN won that night as Mike and other board members were on hand to accept the donation check.
Community members have helped the young nonprofit get off the ground in other ways too, starting with the eight-person all-volunteer NEKCAN board. A local legal firm also helped the nonprofit pro-bono to navigate the paperwork that comes with obtaining nonprofit status, managing donations, and giving grants.
A vision to help everyone
The nonprofit may be young, but Barrett, Leach, Copp and others on the board have big dreams. And big events to help support them. Last year NEKCAN hosted an 80’s themed dance party, a car show, 5K fun run and the Winter Snow Ball. “While the events can be a lot of work, we have a lot of fun bringing people together to have fun, enjoy life, and help support those in need,” said Leach.
Recently Barrett was talking to a client in his agency and learned that while the client had been in remission from his previously treated cancer, it had unfortunately spread. “I was able to tell him about NEKCAN, encouraged him to apply, and am excited to see he was awarded a grant at our last NEKCAN board meeting,” said Barrett.
“While the events can be a lot of work, we have a lot of fun bringing people together to have fun, enjoy life, and help support those in need,”
– Garth Leach, cofounder and board vide president, Northeast Kingdom Cancer Action Network
A $5,000 Make More Happen Award donation will certainly help. Ensure that Barrett Insurance Agency reaches 500 votes and an additional $5,000 donation for Northeast Kingdom Cancer Action Network, simply by leaving a comment below and clicking the vote button at the top of the story.