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The Meaning of Care Magazine

Spirit of Courage Celebrates 20 Years of Spotlighting Cancer Survivors

Published: Aug. 24, 2022

Brady Jorgensen with Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh and actor Richard Horvitz at the 2017 Spirit of Courage event

 

What began as a small celebration to honor, recognize and celebrate cancer survivors has evolved into a 20-year effort that has raised over $2 million for the Jennie Edmundson Foundation Charitable Patient Care Fund.

Those humble beginnings saw a few hundred attendees, but now the Spirit of Courage gala fills an event center as laughter, tears and good memories are shared during the evening’s celebration. Through the years, 64 cancer patients have been honored.

“When we began the event 20 years ago, it was actually a board member who coined the name ‘Spirit of Courage,’” said Tara Slevin, chief philanthropy officer for Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital and president of the Jennie Edmundson Foundation. “From the very beginning, we wanted to celebrate survivors, and the name has been a fitting tribute to them. To have raised over $2 million through our efforts is just phenomenal.”

Emma Chance
Emma Chance, 2007 Spirit of Courage honoree

Emma Chance was among the honorees in 2007. A CPA in the Council Bluffs community, Emma was diagnosed with breast cancer on Jan. 13, 2006 — not great timing when you’re in the numbers business. But despite the effects of chemotherapy, she went to work every day — if even for a short time — to help her husband navigate their busy tax business. She retired in 2012 and is still cancer-free.

“At the time of my diagnosis, it was overwhelming,” Emma said. “Being a member of the ‘C’ club is not something you apply for! But I had such a strong support system in place, and the support the Jennie Edmundson Foundation provides for those who may not be as fortunate is so valuable. I still attend Spirit of Courage events every year because you feel a camaraderie with those honorees past and present.”

Brady Jorgensen
Brady Jorgensen, age 3, 2009 Spirit of Courage honoree

Brady Jorgensen gets the award for being the youngest Spirit of Courage honoree. At age 3, he was experiencing unusual symptoms. A CT scan revealed a golf ball-size tumor in his brain — in the area of the pituitary and hypothalamus. Brady’s courageous battle against his cancer resulted in him being honored in 2009.

Since Brady’s diagnosis, his health care journey has had its share of ups and downs. When he was 7, he became the second child to undergo radiation therapy at the University of Iowa. A diagnosis of diabetes in the eighth grade resulted in some additional setbacks, but a recent MRI determined he is stable as his cancer journey continues.

Today, the 16-year-old is a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School. He is a member of the golf team, marching band and concert band. He also hopes to give the bowling team a boost with his skills this year.

“I find it is an amazing honor that Spirit of Courage considered a person at such a young age to be recognized,” Brady said. “I’ve continued to attend events — as many as I can. I want to pay things forward to others, and I hope I can be an inspiration to others.”

While the Spirit of Courage banquet is a wonderful celebration, it’s just one portion of our fundraising efforts. A golf event featuring local celebrities and other golf enthusiasts has given us many stories to share for years to come.

All money raised by Spirit of Courage events supports patient needs, such as medication, transportation to and from treatment, procedures, lodging and nutrition.

This year’s event was held in August. The night paid tribute to the past 20 years, with many past Spirit of Courage recipients attending. 

“We’ve been very blessed with the ongoing support from past recipients and their families — some that have celebrated nearly every year with us,” Slevin said. “That’s pretty special.”

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