Breast Cancer Survivor and Son Raise Funds for Tree of Life

Jenny and Vaughn CrittendenPatients may not know that our mission is to care for others as we would care for those we love, but they can feel it. Jenny Crittenden of Deltaville is living proof of the Riverside Care Difference. After her diagnosis with breast cancer late last year, Riverside became part of her journey: from her first mammogram at Riverside Walter Reed Hospital, to the personal guidance of her oncologist, to the extraordinary compassion of her surgeon as she faced a double mastectomy at age 44.

Crittenden had never heard of the Riverside Care Difference, or our promise to keep our patients safe and be kind to them as we help them heal, but "I felt that," she said. "I felt that from people who took care of me."

Giving Back
Crittenden is grateful that her cancer was caught early, and now she's giving back. With the help of her son, Vaughan, Jenny is spearheading a fundraiser — the Langley Speedway Pink Project — to help other local patients facing cancer.

“I wanted to help the community and help the people who helped my mom.”

- Vaughan Crittenden

The family chose Riverside because the funds stay in our local communities. Each dollar raised goes directly to a cancer patient who needs help, and the health system takes care of overhead and administrative costs for managing the Tree of Life through the Riverside Foundation.

“We wanted to be able to impact patients in the community: to make sure 100% of the proceeds go to patients, whether it's education and prevention or treatment and procedures.”

- Jenny Crittenden

The Tree of Life
The Langley Speedway Pink Project will benefit the Tree of Life, a fund that supports cancer patients with immediate needs, such as electric bills, transportation to doctor appointments, rent or medication. Recently, the fund enabled an Eastern Shore man to pay his health insurance premiums until he was well enough to work again. Patient navigators at Riverside, including Yvonne Pike, connect those in need to the Tree of Life Cancer Fund when other resources have been exhausted.

“It's beyond amazing," Pike said. "It can make a difference between a patient being able to stay in treatment or not being able to stay in treatment."

Inability to work through their illness is a problem for many with cancer. Those with jobs that are physically demanding typically have to take a leave of absence, potentially losing their positions and their health insurance.

"People actually drop out of treatment because they can't work," Pike said. "Sadly, we still see times when patients have to choose between a roof over their head and treatment for cancer."

Jenny Crittenden doesn't want anyone to have to make such a difficult choice. She knows that cancer doesn't discriminate — it can hit anyone, at any time. Her brother is recovering from colon cancer, and two other relatives and a number of friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Through the Langley Speedway Pink Project, she's hoped to cast a wide net so that patients facing the illness realized they were not alone.

Start Your Engines
Jenny and Vaughn CrittendenFor her son, a 22-year-old student at James Madison University, the project was also about empowering people who want to help. From the moment his mother confirmed her cancer diagnosis, Vaughan couldn't shake the feeling that he needed to take action. The next night, he decorated his winged champ kart with pink tape for his last race of the season at Langley Speedway, where he's been competing since he was 12. He noticed other drivers also had pink on display in more subtle ways. "But everybody was doing it on their own," he said. "All of these people want to do something."

Arranging a fund-raiser at the track, where Vaughan is currently completing an internship, felt like a natural fit. Langley Speedway is a hometown track, with racing levels from amateur to semi-pro, and thanks to the generous spirit of its hometown racing fans — and the hard work of Jenny and Vaughn — the event was a great success. Over 6,000 patients, friends, community members and Riverside staff came to show their support at the track where stars like Richard Petty, Jimmy Johnson, Adam Petty and Denny Hamlin have raced.

“It was such a privilege to participate in this event. I cannot thank Jenny, Vaughn and all the volunteers enough for all their hard work and dedication to the cancer care fund. My patients amaze me every day. Their strength of spirit and their ability to think of others even in the face of the emotional, mental and physical strain that comes with their cancer diagnosis is truly inspiring.”

– Dr. Magi Khalil, Riverside oncologist

Jenny and Vaughn Crittenden truly embody the spirit of Riverside Care. They emerged from trying times with hearts full of compassion, kindness and a drive to care for others as they would care for those they love. The Pink Project has ensured that many others facing cancer will receive the same remarkable care and support that inspired Jenny to give back through Riverside. We are honored to be a continuing part of her journey as she helps others in such a meaningful, reaching way.

100% OF THE PROCEEDS from the Langley Speedway Pink Project went to help those battling cancer through the Tree of Life Cancer Fund.

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