By SONYA ROBERTS-WOODS
Mother-daughter duo Donna Norman and Marsha Norman Strang are on a mission.
For the past five years, the two women have held an annual event to help raise awareness and funds for ovarian cancer. The idea for the local fundraiser stems from personal tragedy.
“It was Marsha’s idea because she had lost both of her grandmothers, Marie Norman and Ina Williams, to ovarian cancer and that was really upsetting to her,” Donna Norman said. “She didn’t want anyone else to suffer loss like she had so she came up with the idea to raise money for research so that someday they will find a cure.”
Donna Norman also lost her sister to ovarian cancer when she was only 26. Strang, who lives in Humble just outside of Houston, teamed up with her mother and other local family and friends to start the event which features a memory walk in the morning and an auction dinner at night. Raffle tickets are also sold in order to help raise funds.
“I do all the legwork because I’m here locally in town,” Donna Norman said. “I collect all of the donated items for the auction from businesses not only in Mount Pleasant, but in Winnsboro, Sulphur Springs, Paris, Naples and all over.”
The event is held in September to coincide with the yearly national awareness observance. After getting things off the ground that first year, Strang, no stranger to promoting community efforts, founded the Real Praying Mothers a year after the first local ovarian cancer fundraiser. The organization brings together nearly 10,000 members representing almost every state in the country. The group of women come together each Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. for a prayer call phone line. The Real Praying Mothers have also adopted homeless shelters, nursing homes and women’s shelters providing much-needed toiletries and other supplies to those in need. Recently, the group has also assisted with Hurricane Harvey efforts.
“I can’t take full credit for The Real Praying Mothers,” Strang said. “It was God who gave me the vision for it. He told me: ‘you are to go back to Houston and start a women’s ministry called The Real Praying Mothers.’ I had no idea how to even get started, but He just kept putting the right people in my path. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself because I think: ‘after everything I’ve done, the Lord is still willing to use me to make things happen. And He has sent me everybody I needed to make this ministry work.”
Norman and Strang see the ovarian cancer effort as a labor of love.
“Until you are personally affected by ovarian cancer like our family has been, you just don’t realize what kind of impact it can have on you,” Strang said. “Because I lost both of my grandmothers, ovarian cancer really hit home for me and I realized this is real. They were both really special to me so I do it for them. I want to help raise money to find a cure in memory of them.”
The event is also held in memory of Wanda Milner who lost her battle to ovarian cancer. Her son, Jason, was an integral part of fundraising efforts until he was tragically killed just hours before the event a couple of years ago. The morning’s walk is also now held in his honor.
This year, local exercise instructor Jacoby Jimmerson also led a Zumba class at Caldwell Park in Mount Pleasant immediately following the walk. Former NFL player and Mount Pleasant native Chaun Thompson also participated in the activities by throwing footballs and talking to local youth after the memory walk. That night he generously purchased several auction items often donating them back to attendees in the audience at the Mount Pleasant Civic Center. Local physician Dr. Joel Chapman also donated his famous cheesecake to the auction offering a starting bid of $500 for the homemade dessert. While dining on spaghetti, participants bid on donated auction items and a raffle.
“This is really a great cause,” Strang said. “My mother does so much for the community and so I think that’s the reason why the community supports us each year. We were also so thankful to have Chaun be there and be so supportive. He’s already said he will come back next year.”
Next year’s event is already set for Sept. 8, 2018. Both ladies hope to see the event continue to grow year after year.
“When I get frustrated, I have to remind myself that this is bigger than me,” Stran said. “This is about saving lives.”
To participate in the weekly Real Praying Mothers Prayer, call on Wednesday mornings at 7 a.m.(CST) by dialing in to (712) 432-3071 (access code: 210168). For more information on the organization, visit the website at www.realprayingmothers.com or go to their Facebook page: Real Praying Mothers