On Saturday afternoon, Bel Air was crawling with people donning green shirts and looking for something. While the folks wearing green shirts were looking for items as part of a scavenger hunt, they were helping in a small way to find effective treatments for melanoma.
This was the fifth year for the Bel Air Scavenger Hunt, but the first time the event was organized as a fundraiser. The beneficiary of the event is the foundation Kelly's Dream, established two years ago with the goal of promoting the organization of many small events to raise money to fight melanoma.
Scavenger hunt organizer Deb Haney said of Saturday's event: "This year the hunt had a theme of 'Halfway to St. Patrick's Day.' We had 76 participants and 32 volunteers. Each team had 10 riddles to solve to win within 1.5 hours. Prizes were awarded to first, second, third and last place teams along with other donated items. This is a great event for people outside Harford County to become familiar with businesses in Bel Air - 26 businesses participated and we had 20 sponsors. We raised $1,200 for Kelly's Dream. The event was hosted by MaGerk's Pub."
Kelly's Dream founder Kelly Ware said of her organization: "While in the midst of my treatment and spending lots of time at the doctor's office, I decided that I would like to raise money for research and awareness. I formed Kelly's Dream with the idea of hosting a few small fundraisers to raise money for melanoma research and awareness."
She tells the full story of her battle with cancer and the founding of the foundation:
Back in 1990, I was diagnosed with melanoma on my calf and had it removed. No other treatment was prescribed at that time and life went on as usual. I understood that I needed to be careful in the sun and promoted sun protection to friends and family.
Eighteen years later, in 2008, I felt a lump in my groin. It concerned me but I never equated it back to my melanoma in 1990. After outpatient surgery, I was informed that that lump was a recurrence of the melanoma that was originally diagnosed in 1990. It was metastatic melanoma in my lymph node.
The surgeon immediately referred me to an oncologist. He offered me several different options of treatment and a choice of action was put into place. I chose to have surgery to remove a cluster of lymph nodes and then participate in a clinical trial to lesson the chances of recurrence.
Seven months into that treatment, I again felt a lump but this time it was a tumor that had formed on the muscle next to the original site. I had a second surgery to remove that tumor and I was back to square one with treatment. This time I was offered an advanced form of treatment where they take the tumor that was removed and made it into a personalized vaccine that was injected back into me every month for six months. My body is supposed to recognize it as foreign cells and kill any matching cells within me. And now, three and a half years later, I remain cancer free.
While in the midst of my treatment and spending lots of time at the doctor's office, I decided that I would like to raise money for research and awareness. I formed Kelly's Dream with the idea of hosting a few small fundraisers to raise money for melanoma research and awareness. With the encouragement of family and friends, the small fundraiser snowballed into hosting the 1st annual Shrimp Feast/Bull Roast in 2010. Kelly's Dream sold out the 500 person event in 2 weeks and raised over $20,000 for melanoma research.
I have learned that the donation from last year was used to buy a piece of equipment that helps in the study of the "stem cell" or the cells that initiate the spread of melanoma. It is believed that the stem cell has the power to regenerate the melanoma tumor. This machine is also used to pick up on the gene in DNA that can help researchers better understand the spread of the tumor.
In 2011, I hosted the 2nd annual Shrimp Feast/Bull Roast to a sold out crowd of 600 people raising close to $30,000. The money proceeds from that were given to Melanoma Research Alliance, a national foundation.
In early 2012, I hosted the first annual Kelly's Dream 5K Run/Walk. It was attended by 500 people and raised $20,000. The money from that event was donated to both Melanoma Research Alliance and Cancer Support Foundation. The Cancer Support Foundation is a local organization that helps cancer patients with financial difficulties incurred because of their illness.
On September 15, 2012 Kelly's Dream benefited from the annual Bel Air Scavenger Hunt. There were 76 participants and a team of 30 volunteers scattered through Bel Air. A good time was had by all. On September 29, 2012 Kelly's Dream will be hosting its 3rd annual Bull and Shrimp Feast to raise even more money for a great cause.
Giving back to the community and donating to research is very important to me and has become a big part of who I am today. It has also allowed me to meet some wonderful people and patients, some of whom have become good friends. I look forward to taking Kelly's Dream to the next level and making a difference in finding a cure for melanoma.