As seems typical of longtime public servants, Bill and Sherry Peace were hesitant at first to take advantage of a special program through Harbin Clinic that helps cancer patients and their loved ones enjoy outdoor activities.
“We wanted them to save those slots for those who really needed it,” Sherry, a Redmond Regional paramedic, said Friday of the Outdoor Adventures program offered through Summit Quest Cancer Support Services.
“They invited us out to Wax Lake to go kayaking and paddle boarding. It was a beautiful day. They did everything. It was a true respite experience for me because I could paddle board while Bill was out in a boat with someone else. We both had a great time.”
Hundreds of other Rome couples and families facing cancer have been given unforgettable days of joy like this or basic needs assistance through Summit Quest programs over the years.
Now, thanks to two Community Impact Grants from the United Way of Rome and Floyd County totaling $32,000 over the next two years, the nonprofit’s Acts of Kindness, Cooking Matters and Outdoor Adventures programs will be able to help even more residents.
“With these grants, we’re hoping to increase localized efforts through partnerships that offer support programs and services for families and individuals affected by cancer diagnoses,” Summit Quest founder and patient advocate William James said.
“We’re very grateful to be chosen by United Way for these funds. This will free up other funds raised from donations for other services offered through Summit Quest.”
Acts of Kindness provides mortgage and utilities assistance, groceries and transportation partnerships when cancer causes financial hardships, James explained.
The Cooking Matters program focuses on helping families come up with healthy, easy-to-prepare meals with the assistance of local farmers markets, Redmond Regional chefs and places like Doug’s Deli.
“The meals are all kid-friendly and enable the children of cancer patients to help in the kitchen when the parents aren’t feeling well,” he said. “Doug’s Deli also has brought families in to teach them how to create the meals and then everyone sits down to enjoy them together. It’s really wonderful.”
Aside from water activities, Outdoor Adventures offers rock climbing outings, hiking and even ax-throwing thrills.
The Peace couple — who, ironically, volunteered to help with Summit Quest programs back when they were both working in the public safety sector — said they will be forever grateful to James and Summit Quest.
Diagnosed with brain cancer for the second time last year at the age of 59, Bill had fought hard for the past 20 years to be able to continue working in public safety when the removal of his first tumor at 39 left him paralyzed on the left side of his body.
The paralysis made it impossible for him to continue as a police officer, EMT and firefighter, Sherry explained.
“He went through a grueling year of rehab and was able to go back to work as a dispatcher for 17 years — until this recent diagnosis,” Sherry said. “This time it was malignant stage 4 glioblastoma. There’s no cure for that.”
Doctors told the father of two he’d probably only live another six months to a year.
“We’re rockin’ on a year-and-a-half,” Sherry said. “I firmly believe that’s because of all of the positive support we’ve gotten from our families, the medical community, Summit Quest and our public safety families.”
For Dedie Padgett, Outdoor Adventures has been a lifesaver of another sort.
While she and her husband, Steve, have been practically living at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for six months after Steve’s diagnosis of germ cell cancer, their 11-year-old son Samuel has found solace with groups of other kids going through the same thing.
“Over the last couple of years, Samuel has missed us quite a bit,” Padgett said Friday, adding that her husband had a successful overhead door company in Atlanta he was forced to close when he became ill in 2016.
“The program not only helps our son process what is going on, but it provides fun activities with other kids that have become his friends and gives him something to look forward to every month,” she said. “He did ax-throwing last week and he loved it. I don’t know how we could have done this without Summit Quest.”