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Sometimes the smallest details make the biggest difference


From left to right: Pam McLaren, MSW, oncology patient navigator; Kristin Sides, BS, oncology patient navigator; Angelique Cygan, RN, oncology breast navigator; Jerome Derdel, MD, Mount Nittany Physician Group Radiation Oncology; Doreen Perks, founder, BPCAF; Greg Hayes, chair, board of directors, BPCAF; Shawna Cassick, allocation manager, BPCAF; Heidi Lewis, board member, BPCAF; Kelly Renfrew, board member, BPCAF; and Linda Gall, founding member and board member, BPCAF

Since its inception in 2006, the Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund (BPCAF) has helped to ease the financial burden of individuals and families in our local communities – including Blair, Centre, Clearfield and Huntingdon counties – that are battling cancer, by providing funding for basic necessities so their focus is on treatment and recovery.

“As someone who lives, works, plays and raises a family in this community, we see the impact of cancer every day in those closest to us and those around us,” says Greg Hayes, chair, BPCAF board of directors. “What makes a strong community is a healthy community, including community pride and the participation in organizations like the Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund, which is so critical to that healthy community approach. To be productive member of this community, it’s necessary to engage in these ways to benefit the people and the area that give us so much.”

Shawna Cassick, allocations manager for BPCAF, works closely with Mount Nittany Health oncology patient navigators, Kristin Sides, BS; Pam McLaren, MSW; and Angelique Cygan, RN, to review patient funding applications.

“There’s no better feeling than hearing Shawna say, ‘You’ve been approved,’” says Cygan. “Being able to tell a patient that help is on the way... well, you change lives, and that’s the goal.”

Recently, BPCAF was able to gift the entire radiation/oncology department at the Medical Center with a new ice and water machine for its waiting area. Just before that time, the previous machine had broken and ice and bottled water was being delivered several times a day from the cafeteria.

Jerome Derdel, MD, radiation oncologist, Mount Nittany Physician Group Radiation Oncology, says, “Something as simple as having this machine here is so important to our patients. Treatment often results in dry mouths, and having fresh, cold water is soothing and something I know they appreciate.”

Doreen Perks, BPCAF founder, shares that the machine was made possible by a gift from late community member, Donna Litke, who graciously willed monies to the organization as an annual endowment. Doreen says she met with Litke over lunch shortly before her passing, where she expressed to Doreen how much she wanted to be able to give something back to the community in her name after she was gone. “At the end of lunch, Donna told me how much she loved the important work that our all-volunteer board was doing,” says Perks. “I had no idea that she was planning to gift us anything. It’s such a perfect example of what a giving women she was.”

“It was important to us to give to Mount Nittany Medical Center’s radiation/oncology department. This is the core of who we serve,” says Perks. “There are some families that just don’t need our support on a day-to-day basis, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a way to still touch their lives.”

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