Manatee Community Foundation touching many lives

rdymond@bradenton.comApril 7, 2014 

MANATEE -- Watercolors shouldn't be runny when prepared for application, but should be the consistency of maple syrup.

"Not Aunt Jemina though," Bradenton watercolor artist Linda Keegan warns. "It's got to be the kind you get in Vermont, Maine or Wisconsin."

That nugget of wisdom about paint from Keegan drew "ahhs" of appreciation Monday from about a dozen eager beginners in Keegan's Watercolor class at The Center for Building Hope.

The Center's work has been rewarded with a $3,100 grant from Manatee Community Foundation -- one of 44 the foundation gave out in its spring cycle for a record $133,000 in grants. Center for Building Hope's grant is for weekend, overnight camp programs for children and their families impacted by cancer.

Keegan's students are all either cancer patients, care

givers of cancer patients or family of cancer patients. They take advantage of Center for Building Hope's ambitious goal of offering free information, programs and services to any area cancer patients, caregivers and family members, while connecting them with others who are undergoing a similar experience. They meet at the Lakewood Ranch center every Monday for the 75-minute afternoon class.

"We're probably the best-kept secret of any not-for-profit out there, but we really don't want to be," said Andrea Feldmar, Center for Building Hope's program director.

MCF's radar tracking many

While the public and perhaps even some local cancer patients don't realize that a unique resource is close and completely free, the Manatee Community Foundation does.

Manatee Community Foundation, whose mission is to connect the charitable desires of donors with the on-going needs of the local community, awarded the center the grant last week, said Marilyn Howard, MCF's executive director.

MCF's funding for the other 43 local nonprofit organizations ranged from $272 for Braden River High School's purchase of the monthly magazine, "Scholastic Math," for sixth to ninth graders to $6,131 so Just For Girls can have a music teacher, basic instruments and a choral riser, Howard said.

"Other grants funded include computers for the Women's Resource Center and the Literacy Council of Manatee County and mentor support for Project Heart and Big Brothers Big Sisters," Howard added.

A grants committee made up of community volunteers and MCF board members reviewed 58 applications, Howard said."Additional funding for many of the grants was provided by individual MCF donor advisors who direct money from their funds to help close the funding gap between requests and dollars available for grants," Howard said.

13-year-old going to camp

Maya McKibbin, a Bradenton 13-year-old with a form of cancer called Ewing's sarcoma, will be going to the Center for Building Hope Camp Friday through Sunday that Manatee Community Foundation funds.

Maya will be one of 10 kids with cancer who can ride horses, participate in a drum circle, a nature walk, canoeing and arts and crafts. The camp is at Foundation for Dreams in Manatee County.

"I think this will give us a chance to unplug," said Maya's mother, Sashi McKibbin. "Even at home we never unplug completely. This will give us a chance to get to know other people, other families on the same journey we are on."

Maya is on a 34-week chemotherapy trek. She will be in a wheelchair for camp, but is looking forward to perfecting her arts and crafts.

Maya complained of pain in her upper thigh when she was 12. Doctors couldn't find anything wrong with her thigh. It wasn't until an ultrasound that a tumor was found in her hip, causing her thigh pain.

Maya's doctors at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Damon Reed and David Cheong, worked together to reduce the size of her tumor with chemotherapy and then surgically remove it, along with her hip bone. Maya, whose last scan showed she was cancer-free, is slowly learning how to put weight on her right foot.

Maya never gave in to cancer. She held onto her long black hair until the last strand came out.

"She took it a lot better than I did," Sashi McKibbin said. "Luckily, she loves hats."

Maya is a straight A student who attends Community Christian School in Bradenton when she can.

"She has 15 classmates mothering her," Sashi McKibbin said.

Maya, whose cancer has a 70-percent cure rate, is a Star Wars' fan. It has shaped her thinking.

"Maya says to me, 'Mom, the light saber is the answer to everything.'"

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.

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