The American Cancer Society reports that a little over 1.9 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2023. It would likely be challenging to find someone who hasn’t been impacted by cancer in some way. As we approach World Cancer Day on Feb. 4, I want to shine a light on several funds that aim to make life a little better for families and individuals who have been impacted by cancer.
As local business owners, Dr. Nelson Zahler and his wife Celia saw firsthand the challenges cancer can present when one of their employees was diagnosed.
“She was a very young woman and she didn’t have a support network to help her,” Celia said. “She was faced with the possibility of losing her apartment, her car, her job, because she had a year of treatment ahead of her.”
The Zahlers established The Florence Zahler Memorial Cancer Support Fund with the Community Foundation to support those who have been diagnosed with cancer and who need assistance with housing, transportation or medical insurance expenses.
“We wanted to fill a funding void for cancer patients,” Celia said. “It’s important that patients maintain their current standard of living and avoid additional upheavals in life.”
The fund name pays tribute to Nelson’s mother, Florence, who passed away from cancer-related illness. Celia said Florence was a teacher and “a good listener who possessed a unique ability to get people to talk about themselves.”
In recent years, the fund has covered rent, food and utilities for a 72-year-old woman with cancer who is also caring for her adult son with Down Syndrome; provided rent for a father of two who was diagnosed with cancer; helped a young woman with cancer escape a domestic violence situation and find safe housing; and helped a disabled veteran being treated for prostate cancer.
John and Lucille Ponton had deep roots in Frederick – she was co-owner of Mar-Lu Restaurant for 36 years and was a member of both the Frederick and the International Women’s Rifle Teams. He was a World War II veteran and later owned and operated Ponton’s Community Sales.
Through her estate, Lucille created The John L. and Lucille H. Ponton Charitable Fund to support the needs of children with cancer. The fund stipulates that grants should support the families of children with cancer including travel expenses as well as for Frederick Health Hospice’s Camp Jamie and its purposes.
The Ponton’s fund recently distributed more than $100,000 to support local families who have children with cancer.
“It’s a horrible thing for someone that is very sick and very scared to have to think about losing the roof over your head, the car that gets you to treatment, the food that is necessary for recovery,” Celia Zahler said. “If you have the wherewithal to help people, that’s an obligation that all of us should take on.”
The Community Foundation is honored to partner with both the generous donors who want to make a difference in the lives of Frederick County families who are facing the challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis; as well as the nonprofits and organizations that are on the front lines, providing patients with care and support.
* This was published in The Frederick News-Post on Jan. 30, 2023.