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'Splash' money boosts cancer screenings

Thanks to a fall fundraising event, free or reduced-cost cancer screenings will be available to more people in 2013.

Tracy Pardy, Avera Queen of Peace Foundation director since October 2011, said the remarkable response of donors at November's sixth annual Splash of Spirits fundraiser in Mitchell raised nearly $100,000 and opened the door for additional, free cancer screenings.

In past years, the most Splash earned was $42,000, but in 2012 the event cleared $98,000 after expenses. Pardy said money from an existing cancer care fund was added to increase the available screening cash to $130,000.

"The credit goes to the donors, to the people of Mitchell," Pardy said.

Pardy said a 17-member committee of doctors, nurses and clinic managers at the hospital decided the money will have the greatest impact if it is used for colonoscopies, and screenings for lung and skin cancer.

"We promised donors we would use every single penny for community screenings," she said.

Since colonoscopies are the most costly screening procedures, $55,000 was budgeted for that purpose, with a $500 cash grant going to each participant.

The screening program began signing up participants this month since March is National Colon Cancer Month, Pardy said.

The total cost of the procedure for the patient will depend on a patient's health insurance coverage, said hospital spokeswoman Trish Delaney.

The grant is cash that can be used to offset up to $500 of out-ofpocket hospital expenses. That may include an insurance deductible or items not covered by insurance, she said.

People without insurance may be eligible for free colonoscopies through the GetScreenedSD program, she said.

Delaney said the foundation will track the results of the promotion to determine if it ends up saving lives.

So far this month, about 120 people have been scheduled for colonoscopies by Avera Medical Group surgeons. The procedures will be done at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, she said.

The remaining cancer screenings will be at no cost to participants.

Those free screenings will be in May for skin cancer; in July for lung cancer; in September for prostate cancer; and in October for breast cancer.

Times, dates and contact information will be announced several weeks before each screening. For additional information, contact the Avera Queen of Peace Foundation at (605) 995-5773.