COLUMBIA — Six years ago, Angie Kennon was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was 27, and it was a cruel shock; cancer isn’t supposed to impede young couples. She and her husband, Dave, were living in Virginia, but they returned home to Mexico, Mo., where they were supported by family and a group of old friends. Her cancer went into remission.
They moved to Columbia, where Angie Kennon got her job as a research specialist at MU's Plant Transformation Core Facility. Dave Kennon works for the city doing housing maintenance. They have a son, Raye, who is 4; his brother, Ryan, is 11 months old.
WHAT: Auction to help Angie Kennon pay her medical bills
WHEN: Nov. 29. Dinner and silent auction, 4-6 p.m.; live auction, 6-8 p.m.; deejay and social time, 8-10 p.m.
WHERE: Lenore Lake Banquet Hall, Mexico, Mo.
TICKETS AND MORE INFORMATION: To see the full list of items for auction, go to friendsofangiekennon.blogspot.com To purchase raffle tickets, $5, or dinner tickets, $10, e-mail FriendsOfAngieKennon@gmail.com.
In August, Angie Kennon was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. “That's reality. It's unfair to me. It's unfair to a lot of people,” she said. “It makes me really angry to be dealing with this.”
It’s much harder this time around. Kennon has two children and used up her work leave on maternity. “It’s a lot,” she said. Dave and Raye shaved their heads in support. Raye calls the buzz his “fancy hairdo.”
Kristi Hoer and several of Kennon’s other friends from Mexico wanted to help. Hoer suggested an auction to help the Kennons with their rapidly climbing medical expenses. "I'm not a good leader," Hoer said. "I just have a big heart."
Hoer, Hillary Matlosz, sisters Darla McDonnell and Kenna Weber, Cary Smith and Deirdre Shea sent letters appealing for donations for the auction. They e-mailed friends and co-workers and asked them to e-mail their friends. They saw their message spread across the globe. Joe Placco, a former biochemistry professor who had Kennon and Hoer as students, wired a donation from South America.
Working in the narrow window between deer-hunting season and the holidays, they were finally able to schedule the auction for Nov. 29 at the Lake Lenore Banquet Hall in Mexico, Mo. Donations have streamed in, including gift certificates, Cardinals tickets, maid service and pearl necklaces. “I can’t believe the list of things,” Hoer said. “We’ve got the donations. We just need people there.”
Frank Sovich, co-owner of Marathon Office Interiors, donated an executive chair worth more than $500. He’s never met Kennon. Still, he said: “Obviously this is a person who touched a lot of hearts. People don’t donate just to donate.”
“It’s nice to see the community pull together,” Sovich said.
For Hoer, the auction has been more than a chance to support a friend in a bad time. When Hoer was 14, she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the community of Mexico held an auction for her. “I know that’s the only reason we didn’t go bankrupt,” she said. “It’s my turn.”
Kennon's life centers on chemotherapy, surgery, bone work, blood scans, medicine and more medicine. “Right now I’m just living the cancer world,” she said.
There is a perception that women under 40 aren’t at risk for breast cancer. “I hope that can change,” Kennon said. “I was 33 at my diagnosis, and I’ve come across many people in their 20s and 30s. ... It’s out there for anyone, and that’s scary.”
Kennon’s friends have been there as often as possible, doing the little things. "After surgery, she couldn't lift her baby for three to four weeks," Weber said.
“I'm greatly appreciative of my friends, who know I don't like to ask for help,” Kennon said. “I'm really reliant on them, more than they even realize.”
They can’t heal her, but her friends keep finding ways to make things easier. They made bracelets: pink for breast cancer and green for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They also designed pink and green T-shirts and sold advertising space on the back. All of the revenue goes toward medical bills. Raye wants to wear the shirt every day.
The fundraising target for the upcoming auction is between $10,000 and $15,000. Along with a barbecue dinner and several raffle drawings, there will be silent and live auctions and a deejay. There’s only one thing left, Hoer said: “Hoping and praying that people will show up.”