A local charity started in nearby Elbert County in 2008 to help a friend with cancer has spread its outreach to six other counties in recent years, including Madison County.
It all started with a motorcycle ride organized by three Elberton men, Darren Scarborough, Steven Higginbotham and Mike Webb, to raise money to help their longtime friend, TJ Johnson, with expenses related to his cancer diagnosis. The fund-raiser ride from Elberton to Helen raised $8,000 that day to help Johnson and his family with the “incidental” expenses involved in fighting cancer.
But that ride did more than help the Johnson family that day; it inspired a movement that shows no sign of slowing down.
Unfortunately, Johnson died in 2010, but his friends decided to honor his memory by continuing to raise money for other folks in the area and the TJ & Friends Foundation was born.
Their efforts also inspired several Madison County residents to join the movement to get more localized help to residents in this area fighting the dreaded disease, and to raise more funding to provide that help. The “Madison County” group meets monthly to discuss strategies and to plan fundraising and awareness campaigns.
One member, Ramona Booth, a longtime leader in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life’s annual event, says she not “knocking ACS” she just feels it’s time to see some money donated and spent locally to help her neighbors. Booth has lost many family members to the disease over the years. She, along with friend Sue Carithers, of Comer, also sit on the TJ and Friends board of directors.
Carithers, who is a breast cancer survivor, says she found out about TJ and Friends while working as a volunteer at Athens Regional Medical Center.
“I had so many people asking me if I knew where they could get gas money to make the drive in for cancer treatments and doctor’s appointments,” she said. “And one day I heard about TJ and Friends, so I started recommending patients who live in those counties get in touch with them.”
Now she talks with people all the time who say they’ve been helped by TJ & Friends.
And Carithers said she also likes that it is a local charity — something “right here to help us.”
“All people have to do is fill out a one-page application and provide proof of residency, a birth certificate and proof of cancer treatment,” she said. “They can get their check in as little as eight days.”
A group of Madison County residents is working to promote and increase funding for local cancer charity, The TJ & Friends Foundation, which provides monetary help to those facing cancer in a seven county area. Pictured (L-R standing): Ed Miller, Wade Scarboro and Lee Bales; (L-R seated) Ramona Booth, Sandra Scarboro and Sue Carithers. Margie Richards/staff
‘Got your back’ : TJ & Friends Foundation works locally to provide help to area families facing cancer diagnosis and treatment
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