Cancer treatment often carries hidden, related costs not covered by insurance. For some people, this means struggling to pay for transportation to treatment facilities, child care, groceries and other nonmedical bills.
Patients should be able to focus on their health and well-being while undergoing cancer treatment without worrying about its nonmedical burdens and costs. Regional Cancer Care Charities (RCCC) has been founded to help ease that significant distress so patients can concentrate on recovery instead of daily living.
RCC Charities is a nonprofit organization that provides nonmedical financial assistance to adults undergoing medical treatment for cancer or serious hematological disorders.
RCC Charities helps with the indirect living and nonmedical-related expenses typically not covered by Medicare or other health plans, including:
- Groceries or prepared meals
- Transportation to and from treatment facilities, such as public transportation, taxis and car payments
- Rent or mortgage payments
- Telephone payments
- Utility payments, such as water, sewer and electric bills
- Child care
RCC Charities is funded 100% by donations, mostly from individuals. It disperses donations to people with cancer or a serious blood condition through grants of up to $500 per application, with an annual cap of $2,500 for each individual.
Putting Words into Action
The concept of a charity was borne out of Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) clinicians and staff who witnessed firsthand the sometimes-overwhelming economic stress patients were experiencing. Bohdan E. Halibey, MD, saw the toll it was taking on his patients. “People with cancer have needs that are often ignored. For example, if you can’t write a check for your car insurance, how are you going to get to the cancer center?” said Dr. Halibey, a medical oncologist who is now retired from RCCA’s Sparta clinic.
Some community members, including a group of high school students, were already raising money and donating it to the Sparta clinic to help those in need pay their nonmedical bills. Because the clinic had no formal charity to collect and disperse the funds raised, Dr. Halibey decided to establish a charity.
At around the same time, Ethan Wasserman, MD, a medical oncologist at RCCA’s Howell clinic, was also looking for a way to aid patients struggling with a variety of substantial out-of-pocket expenditures. “We have patients, unfortunately, who have to decide between paying for their medicine or putting food on their table,” he said. “That’s a decision no one should have to make.”
In fact, Dr. Wasserman and the staff in Howell were already collecting food and purchasing gift cards for patients and their families who needed help. “I’ve personally been to Walmart to pick up clean clothing for patients,” he said. “I’ve also had other patients or their family members ask if they could make donations to help those in need.” Such generosity from staff and patients alike inspired him to pursue establishing a program that could help those with cancer.
Both Drs. Halibey and Wasserman separately approached Terrill Jordan, RCCA’s president and chief executive officer, about starting some sort of charity or foundation. Jordan eagerly embraced the idea, and RCC Charities was born.
“I’m really pleased that we’re raising money to benefit our patients,” Jordan said. “Health insurance can help pay medical bills for treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. But there’s no option for people who need money to access that treatment. We plan to fill that gap with grants from RCC Charities.”
Making a Vision a Reality
To help put together the charity, Jordan reached out to Steve Alessi, the New Jersey and Lehigh Valley, Pa., regional president for Advance Local, a leading U.S. digital media and marketing company, and asked him to join Drs. Wasserman and Halibey on its board. “RCCA provides critical medical services to my neighbors and so many others in the communities we serve,” remarked Alessi, a resident of Cream Ridge, N.J. “I naturally said yes to Terrill’s invitation. Serving on the board of RCC Charities is a privilege that means a great deal to me. I’m very aware of the services RCCA provides throughout New Jersey and other areas. But since becoming involved, I’ve learned more about the nonmedical challenges patients may encounter when facing cancer treatment. I was honored to be asked to help RCC Charities achieve its mission,” he added.
Alessi’s involvement doesn’t end there: He leads NJ Advance Media, a regional division of Advance Local whose mission is to “strengthen and empower the communities we serve. “ Well aligned with the company’s mission, NJ Advance Media has joined with RCC Charities as a community partner to help support its outreach and promote the difference RCC Charities can make in the lives of people fighting cancer.
Lamont Corprew, a financial adviser and vice president with JPMorgan, rounds out RCC Charities’ board. When Corprew learned about the budding charity, he jumped at the chance to help the nonprofit progress toward its mission. A longtime advocate of individuals and families affected by cancer, Corprew wants patients to know that RCC Charities understands what it’s like to deal with a cancer diagnosis and treatment and their need for a support system.
“We see ourselves as being part of that support system,” Corprew said. “RCCA’s clinics and physicians are already doing stellar work providing top-notch treatment. But we want to remove some of the financial worry patients may have about accessing that treatment, such as paying for transportation or child care.” He adds: “This assistance makes it a little bit easier when you’re dealing with something as formidable as cancer.”
Dr. Halibey agrees: “People with cancer have great difficulties beyond their illness itself. They can have extraordinary expenses related to cancer treatment. Some might lose their jobs and not be able to afford the basic necessities of life. Those of us who are healthy don’t think about that, whereas for people who have malignancies, that’s sometimes all they think about. And that’s the purpose of this charity: to help those people.”
IF YOU’D LIKE TO APPLY FOR A GRANT, go to the Regional Cancer Care Charities website at rcccharities.org or speak with an administrator at your local RCCA medical clinic.
IF YOU’D LIKE TO DONATE, go to rcccharities.org/how-to-donate to make a donation via credit card or send a check to Regional Cancer Care Charities, Inc., 25 Main St., Ste 601, Hackensack, NJ 07601. Please make checks payable to Regional Cancer Care Charities, Inc.
You also can donate in other ways, such as stocks, bequests, honorariums or memorial gifts. Your gift is deeply appreciated.