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Cancer support group looks for local leaders

It all started more than 25 years ago by Margaret “Peg” Quinn of Red Wing. After she was diagnosed with cancer, Quinn organized regular meet-ups with friends also battling the disease.

“And it kind of grew from there,” said Jane Donkers, who, along with Pat Ross, took over coordinating the bimonthly gatherings following Quinn’s death in 2006.

The venerable cancer support group — dubbed Peg’s Party in Quinn’s honor — now is looking for new members and leadership to keep it going into the future.

Among the biggest needs right now is for someone to schedule guest speakers for the meetings, Ross said.

Although the group’s original purpose was for members to socialize and share experiences, Donkers said it evolved to include educational presentations. Past speakers included health care and fitness experts discussing treatment options, coping mechanism and useful tips.

“Lately we’ve had people who have had some interesting travel experiences come and speak too,” Donkers said.

“I think it’s a remarkable group of people,” said Pam Horlitz, community engagement specialist with Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing. Horlitz said she spoke to the group about physical activity several times in the past while she was working with Red Wing Family YMCA.

“It’s a great example of community members coming together over a unifying issue,” Horlitz said.

Ross said she and Donkers would provide assistance to anyone interested in handling coordinating duties, which also include making lunch reservations at the group’s usual meeting spot, Marie’s Underground Grill & Tap House in downtown Red Wing.

The group meets at Marie’s noon to 1 p.m., generally on the third Friday of every other month, Donkers said.

Meeting for lunch means people can attend even if they work during the day, Ross said.

A diverse group

Donkers said the group has had around 50 members over the years, and lately averages 20 people per meeting.

Many of the members are women who survived breast cancer, but Donkers said the group is open to all people facing various types of cancer.

“It’s definitely a mixture,” she said.

Family members of survivors also are welcome, Ross said.

“We’ve had a little girl whose parents would bring her,” Ross said, “and we’ve had a couple husbands come.”

In the group’s call for new members, Donkers said she hopes to attract younger attendees as well.

Worth continuing

With so much cancer and health information now available online, Donkers said there was a discussion within the group whether it still has value.

“I think it does,” Ross said. “If there are few people who want to get together just to get together, then that’s a reason.”

“That’s what I like about it,” group member Roxann Bonde said. “I like the support of other people who have been there, done that and survived.”

The next meeting is noon Friday Nov. 15 at Marie’s. Donkers asks anyone wishing to attend to register by Nov. 13 so lunch reservations can be made.

The group does not charge dues, but members are required to pay for their own lunch.

For more information on the group or to sign up for the next meeting, call Donkers at 651-388-6478 or Ross at 651-388-3988.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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