BRADENTON -- Pink lemonade and goody bags were a little bonus for six women who received free mammograms Monday as part of a program to ensure uninsured women receive cancer screenings.
The diagnostic screenings were part of a donation by Manatee Diagnostic Center and Paula Stalpes, a former nurse living in Minnesota, made possible through We Care Manatee, a not-for-profit organization that raises money for medical care.
On Monday, Stalpes met the women who benefitted from her winning bid for the six mammograms she donated to We Care Manatee.
"This is overwhelming," Stalpes said. "Being in health care I see a lot of women who can't afford preventative things."
Manatee County mammogram recipients Matilda Coleman and Donna Machiavelo said they were grateful to Stalpes.
Coleman was already a We Care Manatee client, but Machiavelo said she heard about the giveaway through Turning Points, formerly the Bill Galvano One Stop Center.
"I went to One Stop for medication and they told me someone had donated mammogram screenings and I would be able to get one," Machiavelo said. "I feel overwhelmed and grateful. I am unemployed and uninsured."
We Care Manatee was founded in 1999 by the Manatee County Medical Society after local medical specialists realized low-income, un
insured residents were not getting health care.
We Care Manatee, which secures all funding privately, primarily through an annual February Casino Night Fundraiser, has grown now to where it provides $1 million a year in free services to roughly 2,500 patients, said Jill Gass, executive director.
Manatee Diagnostic Center donated the free mammograms to We Care Manatee as a silent auction item for the Casino Night Fundraiser in February. Stalpes was the highest bidder.
Over the years, We Care Manatee, which also participates May 6-7 in the online fundraiser, "The Giving Partner," has attracted many medical specialists who believe strongly in its mission, Gass said. One is family owned Manatee Diagnostic Center at Riverside Medical Center.
"To be able to change lives is a gift," said Manatee Diagnostic Center Executive Director Davis Graham of his work with We Care Manatee, adding women in need can get a mammogram screening there for $50.
"It's a cash price for people who don't have health insurance," Graham said. "But they do need a physician for the report to go to."
Women who need a physician to look at their mammogram report can call Manatee County Medical Society at 941-755-3411, said Graham, whose Manatee Diagnostic Center is at 300 Riverside Drive E., Suite 3000.
Six women from the Manatee area without health coverage for mammogram screenings were chosen for the screenings.
"I didn't have any money and the program I had been in, I was now too old to qualify for," said Manatee County resident Annie Thorp, a regular We Care Manatee client. "When I heard that We Care Manatee had something special for me I said, 'Thank you God!' I am at a point in my life where I need to keep my screening regular."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.