The 20th annual Festival of Hope drew hundreds of people to the Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds on Saturday in support of the fight against cancer.
Dr. Vince Bjorling, a recently retired oncologist, sits on the advisory board of the Festival of Hope. He said it has become a very personal event over the years.
“We were trying to figure out how to help cancer patients and their families with non-medical expenses, because we know that when people are going through cancer treatment, it’s a very stressful time for them financially,” he said. -he declares.
Through fun races, auctions, bake sales and other activities, the Festival of Hope raises thousands of dollars each year to support these families in times of need.
“A lot of times, just paying for a car, paying for a utility … making sure they have groceries and things like that, becomes a really big thing,” Bjorling said. “…When you think about it in western Nebraska, everyone is either a family member, friend or neighbor (of someone who has been diagnosed with cancer) and that’s where everyone comes together and helps everyone Over the past 20 years, we have distributed nearly $3.3 million to patients and their families.
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The money stays in the local area, helping cancer patients in the western Nebraska region. Sometimes cancer patients can pay it forward and donate to help other families who are going through the same challenges as theirs.
“It’s just a very good cause, it helps the patients a lot. I think it’s a really good way to support the community,” said Brittany Eirich, who has worked with Bjorling.
This year’s Festival of Hope started with a fun 5k and run for the kids early in the morning. The Knights of Columbus served breakfast from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Volunteers then served lunch for the duration of the festival.
Kids and the young at heart could purchase tickets and participate in various booths and activities throughout the event. These included a skee ball, face paint and a bouncy castle. Many shirts, pastries and other items were also available for sale.
A silent auction with dozens of prizes provided another way for the Festival of Hope to raise funds. Local performers, including bands and dancers, entertained the crowd by bidding, eating or playing.
Several items or sets of items were also auctioned in a live auction.
Prizes ranged from a cake or an armchair or a grill, to a hot air balloon ride for two, to 100 pounds of ground beef. A total of 14 prizes were auctioned live, with some selling for over $1,000.
Guests could purchase butterfly decals to honor either those diagnosed with cancer or in memory of those who died from it. The decals were displayed along the back wall of the fairgrounds event center. Towards the end of the program, the organizers read the long list of names on this wall of hope.
Afterwards, children at the event gathered outside to help release dozens of painted lady butterflies alive. Butterflies scattered across the sky, though some needed extra encouragement.
Many of the activities featured at Saturday’s festival have been around since the event’s inception in 2003.
“We have been very blessed,” Bjorling said. “We live in a very giving community and people have really embraced that.”