At the end of each summer, a party is held at Sun Valley Lake in Ellston. The day is spent with good food, music and friends, plus a fundraiser is held for a local cause.
This year’s fundraiser was a ‘Backyard Bash’ for the Family Cancer Network (FCN), chosen by Jessica Brown with Stoney Oak Properties in Osceola. FCN is an Iowa-based nonprofit that gives monetary support to Iowans facing a blood or pediatric cancer diagnosis.
As the donations to FCN stalled about $2,500, owner and broker of Stoney Oak Properties Paula McClaflin made a deal with those assembled:
“Get it to $5,000 [and] I will match it,” is what McClaflin said.
As another $2,500 was raised, McClaflin stayed true to her word, and cut a check to FCN on Oct. 3.
FCN was founded nine years ago.
At the time, Mike Biegger, Larry Laughlin and Tim Mauro were raising money for other organizations, including the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in Des Moines. As they saw that start to move away from Iowa patients to a more national basis, they desired to retain that local awareness. They held their first 5K walk/run called Blood, Sweat and Beers that year, and continue to host one every year.
While initially FCN looked to help those families affected by blood cancer, that soon expanded to include pediatric cancer (ages 0-18) as well.
“We’ve all been touched by [cancer],” said Mauro, who lost his father-in-law to blood cancer.
FCN’s mission is to raise money that is given directly to Iowans, helping those with lost wages or loss of jobs, or are behind on expenses. With cancer diagnoses coming with large financial damages, FCN seeks to give grants to families who need it, paying directly to bill servicer. Mauro and Biegger said that over the years, they have helped families who are facing or in the process of eviction, gotten utilities turned back on and more. Grants are not given on a flat-fee basis - they are given on what a family needs.
In addition to donations, FCN hold three types of fundraisers: Blood, Sweat and Beers 5K, Backyard Bashes and Beast Fest, a wild game feed held in February that caters towards hunters. They will have about 10 Backyard Bashes this year, and expect to raise between $50-$60,000.With low overhead, FCN is able to give back $0.93 for every dollar raised, finding that to be the most effective way to help more families. Aside from one employee, FCN is all volunteer-based.
2022 was FCN’s biggest year for grants given to Iowans, with over $140,000 given to over 100 Iowa families. Many of those who receive grants come back to FCN as volunteers or to attend events, allow donors to see who exactly is helped by their contributions.
Touched by story
When it came to McClaflin’s decision to match the donations at the Backyard Bash, she wasn’t initially aware that was what was going to happen.
“I didn’t really know I was going to [match] until I heard Katie’s story,” said McClaflin, referencing cancer-mom Katie Almeida who spoke at the fundraiser.
In 2018, Almeida’s 18-month-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. Almeida connected with another mother in the hospital who encouraged her to apply for a grant through FCN. Almeida applied and didn’t hear back immediately, but when she did, it was life-changing. Not just in the relief afforded by easing some of her family’s financial burden, but by the incredible community and friendships that they found.
Today, Almeida’s daughter is in remission, and the people they found at FCN have become family. Almeida began volunteering with FCN as early as 2019, and accepted a position on FCN’s board earlier this year.
“The best kind of people,” is how Almeida described those who she has gotten to know through FCN.
As money continues to come in for FCN following the Sun Valley Backyard Bash event, McClaflin is happy that she did the match, as well as seeing the continued support.
“[It’s] great to ignite people’s passion to help other people. This is what we do,” said McClaflin.
FCN has received an additional $15,000 following the Sun Valley event, making it their largest one to date.
To learn more about FCN, to make a donation or to learn how you can help, visit their website at: www.fcnet.org.