Tavernier couple Kathy and Ben Elmore have been floored by the reaction of the Keys community to her cancer diagnosis. At the packed July 10 day-long fundraiser that was organized for her at Marathon’s Overseas Pub, bar manager Andy Sharf said, Good Samaritans would drive up to the gathering, run in with a check for thousands of dollars to give to the Elmores, then drive away.
“The support we have received has been humbling,” said Ben, who is a road-patrol sergeant for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. He previously told Keys Weekly that it’s been hard to ask for and receive help after his wife Kathy’s surprising Stage IIIC colorectal cancer diagnosis at age 33. Just the out-of-pocket maximum for the insurance has cost the family thousands of dollars.
In May, mom-of-two and tax collector employee Kathy was hit with recurring stomach pain. The pain was so severe, she went to Mariners Hospital to have it checked out. Doctors said she had an abscess, so she had immediate surgery to have it drained. But the pain unexpectedly came back. The doctors prescribed exploratory surgery. On May 15, she received the unexpected Stage III cancer diagnosis. Her family is shocked, especially since she’s so young and not a smoker.
“I have no family history of this type of cancer,” she said.
The cancer appears to be random. An intense treatment plan started immediately. Kathy wears a port to administer chemotherapy. After a few more weeks of that she’ll receive radiation therapy, all in hopes to shrink the tumor before surgery to remove it in a few months.
Meanwhile, the expenses started adding up, such as that out-of-pocket maximum and medical supplies. Also, Kathy has had a loss of income from her tax collector’s job because she has run out of sick days, though she is extremely grateful that her boss, Sam Steele, is very patient about her needing time off.
“I personally want to thank everyone who showed up to support us, donated, bought raffle tickets and bid on silent auctions,” said Ben about the fundraiser. “Thank you to our friends, family and co-workers who came out and spent time with us, including Sheriff (Rick) Ramsay, Tax Collector Sam Steele and Monroe County Mayor Michelle Coldiron. A big thank you to Andy Sharf for organizing this event and our friend Stephanie for all of her help through this process.”
Ben was also moved that “our friend Josh Madden drove 1,100 miles from Louisiana to be at the event and played music there.”
The Overseas Pub fundraiser lasted from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. The bar staff donated 100 percent of their tips from that day, while a silent auction included fishing charters and hotel stays as well as other prizes from businesses up and down the Keys. Bands played from 4 to 10 p.m., and deejays spun from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The Elmores’ friend Stephanie was in charge of hawking tickets for the 50/50 raffle. She pointed out that the couple who won the raffle, Chuck and Cindy Bell, donated all the money right back to the Elmores.
“It was heartwarming to see, even from strangers” said Stephanie. “And the servers and the staff were so nice.”
“We were able to raise a good chunk of money to help offset Kathy’s medical bills and have a good time while doing it,” said bar manager Sharf, pointing out that the Elmores now have enough to pay for next year’s out-of-pocket insurance maximum and then some.
“There were multiple thousand-dollar handshakes that day,” he said, half jokingly.
Sharf noted that Keith and Susie Anderson, who won the three-day, two-night stay at Marathon’s Faro Blanco Resort, donated their win to the Elmores, as well.
“That was the norm, not the exception,” Sharf said. “I get burned out living here in the Keys sometimes, but the community renews my spirit.”
To donate to Kathy Elmore’s crowdfunding campaign, go to Spot.fund/helpkathyfightcancer.