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Joining the fight against cancer

Michael Smith

For Michael Smith and his associates at Ameriprise Financial in Stevens Point, the annual "Dueling against Cancer" event is a big part of their lives.

The event itself is outrageously entertaining, and they have fun engaging other businesses to support it. But beyond the fun, each one of Smith's seven employees knows they are part of something much bigger; the fight against cancer. And almost everyone has been touched by cancer in some way.

"My motivation came from my dad's experience with cancer, as well as several of our clients," said Smith, a private wealth advisor whose Stevens Point Ameriprise franchise works with about 600 families.

His father developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma just as he was recovering from heart bypass surgery.

"I went through the whole process with him and saw up close the excellent care he got from the entire team of professionals at Marshfield Clinic," Smith said. At about the same time, Smith spoke with Mindy Gribble, an acquaintance at the Clinic who is the coordinator of the Clinic's WINGS cancer survivorship program. Gribble shared with him the many needs that cancer survivors and their families often have, many times for years after treatment.

"He fully understands the role of being a caregiver and all that it involves," Gribble said.

His associates have their own reasons for participating in Dueling Against Cancer.

"My dad was undergoing treatment for cancer at Marshfield Clinic on the day we had the first planning meeting for the event," said Tracey Stalter, a financial advisor. "He and my mom had to drive from Amherst to Marshfield, which doesn't sound far but can be difficult when you aren't feeling well. So when Marshfield Clinic started the treatment center in Stevens Point, it really helped them. And just about everyone knows someone who has cancer and is receiving care."

Kim Angell, also a financial advisor, values philanthropy and is committed to giving back.

"Life is so much bigger than what we're doing day to day, so if you can have any influence in some way, that's a great way to give back to the community," she said. "Philanthropy is quite important to me personally. I can tie it in with my clientele and their personal family experiences."

Smith, too, said he was glad to see the Clinic start the Marshfield Clinic Stevens Point Cancer Center.

"We're very fortunate to have that here in our community," he noted. "Many of our clients are seniors, which puts them more at risk for certain cancers, so having the treatment close by is important." Some of the company's clients do live in other communities and are serviced by other Marshfield Clinic centers.

Smith acknowledged the strong support he and his father have received at Marshfield Clinic. "The doctor was always willing to take the time to answer questions that my sisters or I had," he noted, "and the nurses were always available by phone. It's important to trust your doctors and the other health professionals, and realize that you are not alone in this.

 What’s it all about?

​"Dueling Against Cancer" attracted 235 guests and raised $33,500 this year. The proceeds benefit the Stevens Point cancer center and the WINGS cancer survivorship program.

Michael Smith and staff. Michael Smith and staff.

 "Dueling Against Cancer" involves two comical improvisational entertainers working without a script, two pianos and an audience of willing participants, so almost anything can happen.

It's a comical event that seriously impacts cancer care. In the Stevens Point care center, items purchased with these funds include a laptop computer for patient use, comfortable chemotherapy chairs, a water cooler/cleaner, a lift chair, iPads, ambulatory infusion pumps and renovations offering a more inviting waiting room environment.

For WINGS, event proceeds were used to create a DVD featuring messages of hope from Marshfield Clinic cancer survivors, their families and caretakers. Also through WINGS, all newly diagnosed patients receive comfort packs containing the DVD, a number of other items and educational materials to help patients better understand their diagnosis.

"I came to appreciate how valuable the support from WINGS could be," Smith said. "There are so many things about cancer that most people don't understand, and WINGS can help before the treatment begins and long after it's over."

Smith also cited Marshfield Clinic's Development Department for providing advice and a thorough event template for his group to follow.

"I especially want to thank Teri Wilczek and the development staff, and the Meissner family, for providing a template of a similar event held in Marshfield," he said. "This template, and their helpfulness, made our event more successful from the start. They do all they can to make it easy for amateur fundraisers to have successful events."