Individuals, businesses and charities from across Cherokee County are working to send a clear message that they give a ... (fill in the blank), with community events starting this weekend.
The effort is a simple mission to help a local family battling cancer that people have rallied around to host fundraising events in all the county’s cities, plus business sponsorships and promotions contributing to the cause. The name of the mission is Cherokee Gives A ____, with a blank intentionally left open.
Earlier this month, Jonathan Chambers, community manager of entrepreneurship at Cherokee Office of Economic Development, and his wife Allie Chambers announced that she had been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. Her treatment is expected to cost $75,000. Within hours, dozens of people were responding and discussing ways to help the family, said Dan Thrailkill, who is organizing many of the events with his spouse Joe Cianciolo.
“A flurry of messages took place,” Thrailkill said. “Text, email, phone calls — everyone was asking the same question: ‘What can we do?’”
Offers started pouring in from business owners. Reformation Brewery leaders suggested selling a special beer to raise money. Elm Street Cultural Arts Village opened up its event green.
“All these people started throwing out these ideas, and it became clear that we were all going to do this together, that this was a community,” Cianciolo said. “We decided instead of people doing things individually, we needed to work collaboratively to amplify the results. We needed a platform to do something big, which was Cherokee Gives.”
Cherokee Gives has become a county-wide effort. Events are planned for Woodstock, Ball Ground, Canton, Holly Springs and Waleska. And as of Wednesday, the group has raised at least $22,000.
The main events kick off Friday in Woodstock including the opening of Alma Coffee at the Circuit, where the cafe will donate a portion of its proceeds and there will be a place to buy T-shirts. Reformation Brewery is offering a special beer throughout the day, of which sales will go to Allie Chambers’ treatment.
Later, a community block party is 6-9 p.m. on the Elm Street Event Green, where there will be live music from local musicians Cody Bolden, Jonathan Peyton and Total Bummer. Downtown Woodstock participating businesses Reformation Brewery, Rootstock and Vine, Flux Ice Cream, Maple Street Biscuit Co., Pie Bar and Truck & Tap will be offering a portion of purchases made at the event toward Cherokee Gives. Flux is selling a special ice cream flavor for the event.
In Ball Ground, a scavenger hunt benefiting the cause will fall on the same day as the city’s Independence Day celebrations, June 29.
For a $20 donation, participants will have the chance to run around downtown Ball Ground, photographing themselves doing various activities to score as many points as possible. The scavenger list includes reading books at the Ball Ground Public Library, using special tickets provided to buy ice cream at Jill’s Cakes & Bakes and throwing a pie in the face of a participating business owner.
The scavenger hunt will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., although pie in the face hours are limited to 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Festival attendees don’t need to do a scavenger hunt to help; Barrel House coffee is donating electronic tips from the day toward Allie Chambers’ medical treatment, and there’s also a tentatively scheduled cornhole tournament. A city-sponsored concert by the Betty Fly Band begins at 7 p.m. followed by Ball Ground’s annual fireworks show.
Jonathan Chambers said he and his family are “overwhelmed” by the support they’ve received. This is the second time Allie has had breast cancer, and they’re currently between doctors visits, working with their oncologist to determine the best course of treatment.
“We’re really living moment by moment right now. It just depends, with a 1 year old at home and her also homeschooling our girls, every moment is different,” he said. “Without our faith and the incredible outpouring of the community, which really is overwhelming, I don’t think we’d be able to get through it. It’s amazing having both those pieces.”
In addition to the city-based events are several from local businesses offering promotions or services to benefit Cherokee Gives. All events and promotions can be found through the Cherokee Gives A _____ Facebook page.
People are invited to fill in the blank with their own contributions, and there are events titled Cherokee Gives a Flux, Cherokee gives a Biscuit, Cherokee Gives a Parents Night Out. The name is also about what the community is giving the Chambers family, Cianciolo said.
“We were trying to figure out how do we give this family something besides just a dollar? How do we give them another Christmas together, another birthday together? And people connected to that-Cherokee gives a blank, as a bold statement,” he said. “Let’s stop talking and just do. We give a. Let’s all give a.”
Jonathan Chambers said that he hopes Cherokee Gives grows to help others in the community.
“When I talk to Allie, we’re blown away by how this has turned into a movement so fast,” he said. “Our hope is that this will be sustainable, that it won’t just end with one family. It’s probably going to change over time, and who’s a part of it will change. But long term, we would love something like this take off in the whole Cherokee County community.”
Financial donations are accepted by Sojourn Church in Woodstock. To donate or learn more about Cherokee Gives, visit www.cherokee.gives.
Staff writer Donald Campbell contributed to this report.