Breast cancer touches so many people in our community, and in 2015 it hit home for Kelly Ries. Like so many other cancer survivors in our area, Kelly is a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister and a friend to many. With her indomitable and whimsical spirit, Kelly is using her creativity to help others who are fighting the same battle.
From the very beginning of her journey, Kelly was determined to forge ahead and win her fight. When she received her initial diagnosis from Dr. Lafferty, she immediately began looking for the positive in the situation. On her way out the door from one of her appointments, she took the diagram Dr. Lafferty had been drawing to help explain what was happening with her cells.
At home, she used this drawing to create two paintings. One of these pieces, a picture of a snowman bearing the phrase, Believe in Miracles, is still hanging in Dr. Lafferty’s office to this day. When Kelly visits the Stark County Surgeons' office for her follow up appointments, she is inspired every time she sees the piece.
After choosing her treatment plan, Kelly underwent her first surgery. When she woke up, Erin Meek from the Aultman Breast Care Center stopped by for a visit and to drop off a small gift – a heart-shaped, fleece pillow to help comfort Kelly as she rested.
“It was simple,” Kelly said, “but it made a big difference. The community is blessed to have professionals as representatives for the type of care I received at Aultman.”
It was these small gestures from physicians and staff at the Aultman Breast Care Center, and seeing how many of her fellow patients were struggling with staying positive that inspired Kelly to do whatever she could to raise the spirits of other local cancer patients.
In 2016, with the help of friends and family, Kelly organized an event to raise funds for breast cancer survivors in the area. Hosted at a local Buffalo Wild Wings, the trivia and raffle event netted over $1,000 that was donated to local organizations.
Though the event was a successful first run, Kelly set her sights on making a bigger impact in 2017. After a few organizational challenges, Kelly and her team decided to rename their efforts Warrior Fest – a reflection of the gumption that it takes to stay positive in the face of any kind of adversity.
“Everyone is going through some kind of battle,” Kelly said. “Whether it’s lung cancer, or breast cancer, depression or something else, we’re all fighting every single day.”
After three weeks of planning and organizing, this year’s Warrior Fest was held on Sunday, Oct. 22, at the Wicked Pickle in Massillon. Featuring raffle baskets, vendor booths, a bake sale and a DJ, the family-friendly event was a memorable celebration of all local breast cancer warriors and an opportunity to share information and raise awareness for the disease.
Through their efforts, Kelly and her family and friends raised $2,500. True to her giving spirit, she is requesting that the funds raised through this amazing event are donated to Aultman Cancer Center and other local organizations to assist women who are battling breast cancer.
With her sights set on 2018, Kelly is already hard at work organizing a committee of friends, family and other local breast cancer warriors to make next year’s event an even bigger success – but to her, the value is not just in dollars raised.
“I don’t care if I make $1 or $10,000. If this makes someone’s life a little happier, it was worth it,” Kelly said.
If you'd like to make a difference in the lives of local cancer patients like Kelly did, we invite you to explore our many giving funds - like the Patient CancerCare Fund - available on the Choose Your Good page.