'LaRena's Race' Funding Now Available to Cancer Fighters

Funding is now available for cancer victims who need help fighting what can be a very expensive disease.

Mary Maher Bengoa, the co-chairman of the annual LaRena Smith Bengoa Run, Ride or Walk for the Cure, said approximately 300 people participated in the May 10 LaRena Smith Bengoa Run, Ride or Walk for the Cure at French Ford Middle School.

When those entry fees were added to proceeds from the day's silent auction and raffle, and donations from generous local businesses and individuals, Bengoa said more than $30,000 is now available to cancer fighters in Humboldt and Lander counties.

"We had another very successful year," said Bengoa of the group's annual fundraiser, "now we're excited to get this money to those people who need it most."

Amorita Maher, the group's founder, said cancer brings with it a flurry of surgeries, treatments, physical pain, changes to appearance, and most of all fear.

"Somehow, people find their way through it," she said. "They develop their own support system, their own coping mechanisms, but they also need assurance of how they're going to meet all these new expenses."

Maher said that is the goal of LaRena's Race: to be that place of help and peace of mind.

Cancer victims can apply for funding each year their cancer diagnosis is confirmed by a physician. The one-page application is simple to complete, and most people receive a check for $1,000 within about three days of applying.

The organization does not stipulate how the money can be used.

"It can be used for fuel, motels, wigs, meals, whatever each individual may need," said Maher.

She also noted that organizers do not receive any compensation for their efforts, and event expenses are covered by generous donations from Humboldt General Hospital, the mining industry and local businesses and organizations.

Additionally, the group sends 10 percent of its yearly donations to "Stand Up 2 Cancer," a cancer research team which encourages innovation through multi-institutional scientists who work together collaboratively, rather than competitively, to develop new treatments quickly in order to save lives now.

Bengoa said that $2,000 to $3,000 annual donation is important "because we know that in the long run many more people may be helped and lives may be saved if a cure can be found."

Bengoa continued, "At the same time, we see the daily struggle of those in our community and know that they need the support now to be with us tomorrow so that we can all work together toward a day when cancer no longer kills."

The organization has grown from three members 12 years ago to 16. Over the last dozen years, the group has also been able to donate $170,000 to 135 cancer fighters.

However, both women said they still feel frustrated at their limited ability to make a difference in people's lives while battling cancer.

"We hear all the time from people who say they tried to get help from these enormous cancer organizations, but no help came," said Maher. "People pour their money and heart into those groups, but it doesn't help their neighbors and friends here."

She continued, "If people put that same kind of effort and time into raising money for LaRena's Race, they wouldn't have to wonder how their donations are helping. They would know; they would be able to see it first-hand."

Donations to the cancer fund can be made throughout the year at any Wells Fargo Bank, or by sending to Jeannie McRae, c/o OK Tire, 750 W. Winnemucca Boulevard, Winnemucca, Nevada 89445.

Cancer fighters may access an application for assistance by visiting www.larenasrace.org and clicking on the link located under the "More Information" heading located on the right-hand side of the home page.

Information is also available by calling Mary Maher Bengoa at (775) 635-8520.