A team of self-described divas from Pullman Regional Hospital topped the list of 34 teams participating in this year's Pullman Relay for Life by raising more than $6,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Team captain Marie Erickson called the effort a hospital-wide outpouring of love, caring and respect for the late BirthPlace & Medical Surgical Unit Director Dennise Stannard, who died last summer of cancer. Team members, who dubbed themselves “Dennise's Divas,” walked for an entire night around the Pullman High School track, and for weeks prior, promoted a pink toilet campaign among other events.
“My husband painted the toilet for me,” said Marie, BirthPlace unit secretary and a certified nursing assistant. “And we put a sign in it that said ‘Flush out Cancer’.” The divas stationed the commode in yards throughout town and then promised property owners to remove the privy for a price – $10 to take it away, $20 to give it to someone else, and $30 to prevent its return.
“We actually raised $925 with the toilet.” Marie said.
Other fund-raising projects included the sale of “Dennise's Divas” sweatshirts, a silent auction and a huge bake and craft sale that resulted in, according to team member and BirthPlace nurse Kari Lewis, “every crumb being sold.”
Relay for Life events are held annually throughout the world and are known for walk-a-thons that draw public attention to the American Cancer Society's continued fight against cancer. Of the approximately ten team members who walked in early April, Marie and BirthPlace nurse Linda Rauch were the most stalwart, circling the track to the tune of more than 42,000 steps.
“I had my pedometer,” Marie said.
Rauch said walking and all the other fund-raising efforts were a tribute to Dennise, their department director who sometimes whimsically topped her head with a tiara while caring deeply for staff and patients at the hospital.
“That's something I really remember about her,” Linda said. “She was always cheerful, always pleasant, always supportive of the staff, whatever we needed, she would go out of her way.”
The Pullman Relay for Life raised more than $34,300 for the cancer society and Dennise's Divas more than doubled their goal of bringing in $3,000.
“I think everybody has been touched by cancer somewhere along the line,” Kari said, “whether it be at work or at home.” She, Marie and Linda said the entire hospital mourned Dennise's death and doing Relay for Life in her name seemed not only appropriate, but destined.
“She had a lot of us to take care of,” Marie said, “and she did.” Dennise, who served as director of Medical Surgical Unit and BirthPlace, was known for learning about individual employee needs and concerns and then helping to create a friendly and professional working environment.
“It was more like what can we do next to make things better and change the process,” Linda said. “Then she'd buoy you up.”
Pullman Regional Hospital is a major sponsor of the local Relay for Life each year.