GLENDO – The Marge Cares Foundation raises money from a little town in Wyoming and they not only dream big, but they are visionaries that once again have exceeded all expectations by raising $39K in their one-day annual Big Bucks Bingo and chili supper.
They would have to serve a lot of chili and bingo cards to raise that kind of money, but this foundation has grown and expanded its fundraising efforts to include silent auctions, a live auction, musical entertainment and a following that packs the little town of Glendo so that the gymnasium had a standing-room-only crowd last Saturday.
“The quilt that Sandy Engling made with the Esterbrook Church on it went for $5000,” said Marge Cares board president Candy Underwood Geringer. “It was a great day. We raised approximately $39,000.”
Marge Wilson battled cancer and had the idea from her hospice bed to create a fund to make it easier for those battling and having to travel to find some financial relief. The funds raised go out directly to help those in need. There is no overhead, everything is donated and the foundation is run by all volunteers.
“What comes in, goes back out,” said Britt Wilson, Marge’s husband and now fellow organizer and board member in the Marge Cares Foundation.
Since then, and after her passing, the Marge Cares Foundation has been faithful raising between $20-25K each year to help families in need find the funding that insurance will not cover. Unfortunately for the foundation, the challenges have at times been fierce and with COVID hitting the world in 2020 and lingering through 2021, the big bingo bash has had to be canceled for two years.
Organizers were holding their breath Saturday before the event began wondering if the following would still be strong after a two-year hiatus. The event was scheduled to run from noon-3 p.m.
“We usually hold this on a Saturday night,” Geringer said. “We were hoping that the time change would be positive for everyone. It is held earlier in the day so people wouldn’t have to travel after dark and if they did have Saturday night plans, they could still attend our function earlier in the day.”
With a time change and two years off, the odds were stacked against them, but at 11 a.m. Saturday people began coming in to view the items up for bid at the silent auction. Another addition was musical entertainment that was going on as people were coming in and eating. Local musician Mark DeLap from Wheatland played piano and sang from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. right up to the time the first Bingo letter was called.
Marge Wilson has been gone for 10 years after she lost her battle to breast cancer. She left a legacy to others who remain ensconced in the battle and for those who have yet to be drafted into the fight in one way or another.
She made a difference while she was alive with her charitable work for Relay for Life, her sitting at the bedside of those losing their fight and with the contribution of her time and her money.
Then one day, during a routine doctor appointment, she found out that she was about to fight cancer personally. She learned that she had developed stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She fought for years after the diagnosis which is a testament to her spirit that refused to give in without a fight.
“Marge worked at Douglas Hospital forever,” said Britt Wilson, Marge’s husband. “She was an administrative RN and she ran the breast cancer society in Douglas before she was diagnosed. She was adamant about getting her ultrasounds and everything, but this was such an aggressive thing. It just grew fast before she felt the lump and by that time it got into her lymph nodes.”
She battled for five years before she was placed in hospice with nary a glimmer of hope. And she passed. But not before she had a chance to come up with ideas on how to stay in the fight even after she was gone.
Britt Wilson remembers that day and that phone call that came from his wife in 2006.
“When they found the lump, we went to Casper and they did needle biopsies,” he said. “We got the results back and they were negative and we were told that she was fine. Her office at Douglas was with the general surgeon there, and he had concerns and said that he wanted to do incisional biopsies.”
What they found was that her body had full-blown cancer. The cruelty of the roller-coaster ride from sick to cured to sick was almost more than they could bear, but she set her spirit for the fight ahead.
“That was just a gut punch, because she was so happy,” he said. “Thank God for Dr. Gasidier in Douglas, but of course it was full-blown by then. She was always optimistic; she just knew that she was going to beat this thing and she had lots of remissions like a lot of people do.”
The cancer reappeared three years later.
“She researched and found a clinical trial out at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland,” he said. “So she just dedicated herself to going and she was a perfect candidate for the trial. We spent two full summers out there and the procedures were pretty complicated. That second year we were there, she was clear again.”
Although she would have to sometimes go on her own due to her husband having to take care of the ranch, she was an encouragement to him though she was the one who was sick. At this point they realized that one doesn’t battle alone and other enemies such as financial phantoms and exhaustion and fears must also be battled with the same vigor as fighting the cancer itself.
They finally had to make a choice to sell all of their cattle just so they could be together at the hospital. Wilson still had his hay to give him some sustainable income, but things like travel and lodging and meals were piling up and that battle became fierce as well.
“It was those fourth and fifth years that she was battling it that I didn’t have any cows,” he said.
The second time she went out, they went to do more injections, and according to Wilson, it had all come back again.
“She found out from them that it was pretty much the end,” he said. “They just said to go back home and go back to your own oncologist and just see what they can do. So she went back and started chemo again thinking that it would help.”
At this point the Wilsons didn’t know how far the disease had progressed.
“One day she was walking and just fell over,” he said, remembering the moment and breaking down into tears. “We couldn’t figure out what was going on and took her to the doctor only to find out that it had gotten into her spinal cord. It just started eating on her spinal cord. The doctor in Casper finally said that it was time to go into hospice. This is it.”
That’s when she began working on her legacy and formulated ideas on how to help others going through the same things. Wracked in her own pain, she got ideas. Not ideas to fight the cancer as that was well out of everyone’s wheelhouse, but ideas on how to help fight those other enemies.
“Good ol’ Marge, you know, they said it was going to go quick,” he said. “Took her into hospice and she was in there for 11 weeks. During that time, she did well for nine weeks and then lost her voice. So, she couldn’t talk, but she could write, and she did that.”
When one obstacle would come, she would find a way to circumvent it. She never gave up. And dying of cancer with time restraints, she’s coming up with ways to raise money to help those who are overwhelmed with expenses.
When the Wilsons would have to travel, there was some help from the American Cancer Society, but the most they had ever received for one time was a $50 check. Not hardly enough when you have to go cross country for clinical trials or even an hour to Casper or 90 minutes to Cheyenne.
Marge passed April 8, 2011, and her idea was to take her memorial fund and put it toward a foundation where people could receive help when they had to travel to receive treatment. She also told her husband that he had to find a way to keep it going. As the years have passed, with help from the little town of Glendo, a little Bingo and chili-supper were the foundations for their foundation to raise $25K a year. And since it’s a nonprofit and nobody gets paid because of all the volunteers, whatever comes in is the same amount that goes out.
The first fundraiser was exactly a year later.
“Marge told me, ‘you just have to keep this thing going,’” he said. “What started it all was that we made the memorial purposed to go into this fund. Marge was a popular person, so we got $8-10K and right away I started doling the money out and trying to think of ways that I could raise more money. The Glendo ambulance crew all got on board and of course Candy just grabbed the reigns and went with it.”
This year the fun and the fun-d raising was back and many families continued to find support in a time when they have so many other things on their agendas, other than finding a way to pay the bills that insurance will not cover. They are fighting for their lives and those from the packed out crowd joined the fight Saturday.
“This is our 12th year and it’s worked out really good,” Wilson said. “We are able to give out as much as we are able to give in, and we give out $500 a shot to those in need and we give a lot repeatedly depending on their situation. You have to travel many places no matter what kind of illness you have and it just keeps growing each year.
“I think the reason for the success of this fundraiser is the dozens of people and other organizations that help bring this thing together. Every year we get more and more people coming to us and asking what they can do to help with our annual benefit. Between this and just having a very giving community of people that are willing to help other people that are in need.”
Wilson, along with people that knew Marge could have buried themselves in grief, but they knew that Marge wouldn’t abide that attitude. So instead, they have rolled up their sleeves and have kept Marge’s dream rolling.