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Saturday 17 August 2019
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SISTERS ON A JOURNEY: A Community Coming Together to CURE Childhood Cancer

On March 9th, more than 900 people gathered together at Honey Ridge Plantation in Guyton for the annual Sisters on a
Journey fundraiser, which benefits Catie’s Fund for the CURE Childhood Cancer organization. This year’s event was a huge
success, raising more than $144,000 for pediatric cancer research.
Proceeds will benefit CURE’s precision medicine program, which uses genetics to better determine each child’s individual
cancer treatment. So far, Catie’s Fund has raised more than $1.3 million, and Sisters on a Journey has gone from one event to
four events throughout southeast Georgia, with plans to keep expanding.
Sisters on a Journey is a fun-filled evening where participants purchase tables and decorate them with unique themes.
Attendees outdid themselves this year with over-the-top tablescapes that were colorful and creative, with many diverse themes
ranging from books to businesses.
Guests perused over four hundred items in a silent auction, enjoyed a delicious dinner catered by Simply Southern, and
listened to live music by the local gospel band, Goshen Travellers. Raffles and door prizes added to the fun, and even more
excitement ensued after dinner, when auctioneer Kenny Williams started the live auction with his mile-a-minute auction cry.
As the co-founder of Catie’s Fund and Sisters on a Journey, Jenny Wilkins couldn’t be happier with how the event turned out.
She first started raising money for childhood cancer to honor the memory of her daughter, Catie, who passed away from
complications of brain cancer when she was four years old. Wilkins has now made it her mission to raise money and awareness
for childhood cancer in hopes of finding a cure.
While Wilkins may be the one “in charge,” she says it is the support of the volunteers and the community that really makes the
event a success each year. She says the vendors, attendees, and everyone who donates their time or resources are the ones who
make it all possible. “We couldn’t do any of this without them,” she says.
Amy Moore, owner of Simply Southern, has catered the event for years, and she loves cooking for the cause. “I just do it for
cost because they’re trying to raise money,” says Moore. “Every dollar that they don’t have to spend on expenses can be a dollar
that’s added to finding a cure.”
Moore says this year’s dinner was particularly inspiring. Usually, the parents speak about their kids who have gone through
cancer treatment, but this year the children also spoke. “It’s remarkable that they’ve battled cancer and gone through things that
some of us could not even imagine…and they just have such a positive outlook on life,” she says. “They see things from a different
perspective.”
One of the original committee members of Sisters on a Journey knows all too well how a cancer diagnosis can change one’s
perspective on life. Abby Smith has been involved with the fundraiser from day one, but after being diagnosed with breast
cancer, the cause is even closer to her heart.
“At the time of the dinner, I had been through six rounds of chemotherapy treatments. As a 37 year old, it was tough–
physically, mentally, emotionally,” Smith explains. “But knowing our children endure the same treatment plan is absolutely
heartbreaking. That is why I feel it is more important than ever for events like Sisters on a Journey to raise awareness and
funding for research that will lead us to a cure.”
Smith jokingly says she “bullied” her way onto the committee when she heard Jenny Wilkins was going to start a fundraising
dinner to benefit childhood cancer research. Like many people in Effingham County, she had heard about Catie and the Wilkins
family, and she wanted to help in any way she could. “Cancer is a horrible disease that affects the lives of too many, and I want to
see it eradicated,” she says. “Every dollar that is raised through the Sisters on a Journey dinners is one step closer to finding that
cure.”
Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that childhood cancer research is extremely underfunded. Cancer is the leading cause
of death by disease in children under the age of nineteen, and approximately one in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer
before age 20. Despite these facts, only 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s annual budget goes toward funding childhood
cancer research.
That statistic stuck out for Catie Busquets, who attended the fundraiser with coworkers from Coastal Electric of Georgia Inc.
She was shocked to learn that the children don’t get anywhere near the funding that she would have expected. “You’d think
childhood cancer would be at the top of the list,” she says. “But it’s not. Only a small amount goes to them.”
This was Busquets’ second time attending the Sisters on a Journey dinner, and she says it’s one of the best fundraisers
she’s experienced. “It’s for a good cause. It’s a well organized event, and it’s fun,” she says.
For Busquets, the best part of the program was listening to the children speak about going through cancer treatment.
“Something that I took from them is you would think childhood cancer is a depressing and sad thing, and these kids, they were
able to find some sort of joy in their journey.” She says the most moving part of the evening was the sheer number of people who
turned out and the generosity of the community.
It is that spirit of community that Sisters on a Journey is all about. When Jenny Wilkins was asked what her daughter would
think of everything being done in her honor, Wilkins says it’s hard to imagine her at 16 years old, but she can imagine 4-year-old
Catie smiling at the thought of helping other children. What makes Wilkins even happier is seeing the community come together.
“I want the focus to be on the community,” Wilkins says. Seeing how freely people given their time, talents, and donations has
been overwhelming. She maintains that the volunteers and participants are the true champions of the event. “We have an
amazing community,” Wilkins reiterates.
Abby Smith echoes the same sentiment when asked what makes Sisters on a Journey so special: “I love that this event brings
our entire community together for one cause, one purpose and with one heart. Every year we say a lot of ‘thank yous’ to our
guests and volunteers, but I think it is also so very important to say, 'BE PROUD. We are making an impact for our children.’”
Indeed, the community should be proud. Raising $144,000 in a single night is quite the accomplishment. It is a testimony to
what can be achieved when a community rallies together for a good cause.
With continued support, Sisters on a Journey will keep growing and raising awareness for childhood cancer research. In fact, it
has grown so much that Wilkins has decided to start working full-time with CURE Childhood Cancer to keep raising money for
her favorite cause. For now, though, she is satisfied with the success of this year’s event.
Wilkins summed it up perfectly in an open facebook post to the community: “Effingham County, I’m so thankful for the
community you are, the way that you serve so graciously, and the way you give so generously. Saturday night couldn’t have
gone much better. $144,000 raised for research. You guys blow us away again and again. Thank you.”
For more information about Sisters on a Journey, Catie’s Fund, or to volunteer or make a donation, email Jenny Wilkins at
Jenny@curechildhoodcancer.org or visit www.curechildhoodcancer.org.