The Astoria Column is glowing in a pink light again for the fifth consecutive year in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But this year, contributions to the cancer fight have been more than aesthetic.
Visitors can make donations this month to the Knight Cancer Collaborative. For every $5 dropped off at the gift shop, the Friends of the Astoria Column’s board of directors will make a matching contribution.
“The Column is an appropriate symbol for the climb to health, and this journey has been made much easier thanks to the opening of the new treatment center,” said Penny Cowden, executive director of the Columbia Memorial Hospital Foundation.
Park host Fred Pynes, site manager Lyndsay Vigil and board members came up with the idea at a weekly meeting.
“We were just sitting around, kind of brainstorming for ways to have more community involvement,” Pynes said. “It all kind of fell into place with the October lighting and the opening of the center.”
Vigil has spearheaded the efforts the past few weeks by collecting donations at the gift shop and handing out flyers to local businesses.
“Everyone’s been really on board when we let them know what we’re doing,” she said.
The column has collected $900 from visitors so far. The original goal was $1,000 for the entire month, but has now been doubled due to early success, Vigil said.
“It’s kind of a lofty goal to get to, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to surpass it,” Vigil said.
The donations will be combined with those from the CMH Auxiliary and recently founded Arm in Arm Fund, which have pitched in $65,000. The money will help patients pay for expenses beyond medical costs — including transportation to and from treatment, cosmetic items, child care and temporary lodging costs.
Mary Armington — along with Dr. William Armington, her son — established the Arm in Arm Fund last month in conjunction with the CMH Foundation.
“This fund is to be the safety net underneath the safety net,” Dr. Armington said during a celebration last week of the center’s opening.
The $16 million cancer center officially opened earlier this month after seven years of preparation. It represents the region’s first source of radiation therapy for cancer patients and expects to see 3,000 patients a year.
Those patients may find relief from Column visitors on an annual basis.
“I would love it if it could be an annual thing,” Vigil said. “Cancer doesn’t just stop after the month of October.”