Give Cancer the Boot

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Photography by Jamison Mosley

   Friends and supporters of the American Cancer Society will once again don boots and spurs to “Give Cancer the Boot” for an evening of western-themed fun and a mission that resonates with many families – the fight against cancer. “At Cattle Baron’s Ball, funds raised provide access to care through transportation grants. This allows patients and families immediate access to treatment instead of having to decide between paying the light bill or receiving their treatment,” American Cancer Society Executive Director of Arkansas, Mississippi & Oklahoma Jennifer Bennett elaborates. The gala will also celebrate several individuals across our community, and the resilient spirit of Misti Coker and Lauren Coker Stringer. Misti shares her family’s cancer journey:

   “July 1st, 2016, will be a day that forever is ingrained within us. It was the day that we learned that our son-in-law and Lauren’s husband, Marc Stringer had cancer. Cancer is something that no one wants to hear, especially at 33. The cancer was diagnosed as stage 3 adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. Stringer, as we called him, immediately began radiation and chemotherapy. He had 25 radiation treatments from July to September with five chemotherapy treatments. He would then have a month to gain strength for the Ivor Lewis procedure.  

   As Laurens’s mom, I knew I had to do something to keep them uplifted. I texted 20 of our friends and asked if they would each take a week and send something in the mail. They could send one thing, two things, food, cards, gift cards – anything that would bring a smile to their face. It became the highlight of Lauren and Stringer’s Day – the mailbox. It also brought me joy when she would call and say, ‘Mom, you will never believe what we got in the mail today.’ After the first 20 treatments concluded, I told Lauren that I had set up the Joy Mail. Lauren said, ‘Mom, I want to do this for other cancer patients.’ That is all it took for us to begin the Joy Mail Program that has reached thousands of patients and currently sends to over 500 patients in over 100 cities in Arkansas, 37 states in the United States and Canada.  

    width=In the beginning our list was small, but then as people found out they could send Joy Mail, we started receiving texts, calls and emails wanting to add people to our list. On our way home from our first MD Anderson trip, we knew we needed to come up with a fundraiser to raise money for our mission work. I asked Stringer what he thought, and he said, ‘I have always wanted to create a mud run.’ And that is what we did. He and Lauren spent the rest of the ride home brainstorming the name. The word ‘endure’ kept coming up in conversation because cancer patients must endure so much. The word dirt was easily added due to the race going to occur in the mud. We wanted the healthy individual to get a little taste of the dirt that cancer patients must endure during treatment. In the past six years, Endure the Dirt has raised close to $800,000.

   Stringer was an athlete in high school and college. He was also a teacher and a coach. He knew the importance of athletics and education. Because of this, Stringer wanted to give scholarships to students who had been impacted by cancer and students who had adversity in their life. We have awarded 33 $500 scholarships to high school seniors through our Endure the Dirt campaign.

   Stringer got to see several years of his vision at work and had the honor of awarding some of the scholarships. But on December 20th, 2019, he walked into the hospital for the last time and, 35 days later, passed away.  

   We learned so much from the 6’6 gentle giant. Because of cancer, Stringer taught us many lessons that we have shared. His legacy lives on through the hundreds of people that benefit from our non-profit Personal Pep Rally.”

   The American Cancer Society is comprised of more than 1.5 million volunteers who are making a difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families. The American Cancer Society in Arkansas awarded more than $175,000 in access to care grants to six health partners across the state providing approximately 6,610 rides to 673 patients. All proceeds from Cattle Baron’s Ball provide these life-saving services. It’s stories like Cokers and so many others that keep this vision for longer, healthier lives steadfast. 

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