Michiana cancer survivor documenting journey, raising money for local nonprofit

NOW: Michiana cancer survivor documenting journey, raising money for local nonprofit


ST. JOSEPH, Mich. – A Michiana organization is raising money to help local cancer patients and one of its former recipients, now a cancer survivor, is giving back to the community.  

From now until May 31, the Berrien County Cancer Service is collecting pennies, nickels, dimes, even paper bills and check donations for their annual “Pennies for Patients” fundraiser.

“The diagnosis of cancer is a very, very difficult one to go through,” said CEO and President Nancy Church.

The non-profit organization says every cent helps them provide free, in-home oncology nursing care to hundreds of residents in Berrien County with cancer. It also funds a medical loan closet, boutique, and support groups.

“We have many people that have very, very high needs who would not have who would actually be missing treatments and things like that because of the barriers they face,” said Church. “Maybe it’s transportation they may have trouble with medication, keeping track of their medication.”

Church says the organization hopes to raise $20,000.

“Even people with insurance may have very, very limited number of visits like, after a surgery for cancer and we are there for you,” said Church. “We never tell you only get so many visits. I’ve seen people for very, very long time for months and sometimes even years the same person because we know that that help is needed.”

St. Joseph native and brain cancer survivor, Kevin Jones, used to benefit from the donations collected during “Pennies for Patients”.

“More official terminology is Germinoma Brain Cancer Survivor, but I really just say brain cancer survivor because that’s what I am,” said Jones.

During his freshman year of high school in 2014, doctors diagnosed Jones with the rare disease that’s often found in children 10 to 19 years old.

“I was upset for probably a good five minutes, and like you know, I’m not going to sit here and complain about it,” said Jones. “I’m just going to go, go take care of it. It’s a business trip.”

Almost five years after doctors declared him cancer free, Jones chats with Connie Demler. She’s a registered nurse at the Berrien County Cancer Service who helped Jones during his treatment.

“He was, I think, one of the sweetest kids I ever met,” said Demler. “You couldn’t help but like him right away.”

It’s people like Connie who inspired Jones, a current TV and digital media production major at Ferris State, to pursue his latest project.

“I’m making a short film about my cancer survival,” said Jones.

Right now, Jones is interviewing the doctors, nurses, and community members that supported him.

“People who helped me get through the toughest times, who encouraged me during my darkest hours and now they’re encouraging me during my brightest days,” said Jones.

He plans to release the documentary in August. He wants to donate any money made to local cancer charities.

“If it can help inspire other people to keep up the fight, that’s what the ultimate goal is,” said Jones.

“If he can portray that in a video, and in his speeches and whatever, I think he’s bound to make impact on patients and families,” said Demler.

“If you just keep pushing forward you’re going to go, you’re going to do great things,” said Jones.

To donate to “Pennies for Patients” click here.

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