ST. GEORGE — During five months of chemotherapy, a surgery and five weeks of radiation, the last thing on St. George resident Cassandra Kunde’s mind was money. It wasn’t until after she defeated breast cancer that she realized she didn’t have a way to pay her medical bills.
Enter Swig, the St. George-based soda and sweets drive-thru chain, whose Save the Cups campaign has paid for life-saving surgeries for women across Utah and Arizona.
Save the Cups was launched in October as a way to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month and help women with breast cancer pay for their removal surgeries. The campaign surpassed its original goal of $50,000 in less than two weeks, according to the campaign’s website, and since October has raised $161,582. The money has paid for the surgeries of a dozen women between Salt Lake City and Phoenix.
“As it started to get toward the end of the year, I was starting to stress about how we might come up with (the money),” Kunde said. “You don’t really think about it when you’re going through the treatment. You’re just trying to get by.”
Swig partnered with surgical centers in St. George and northern Utah to identify women who need help paying for their procedures. Save the Cups recipients don’t have to go looking for the assistance, and in cases like Kunde’s, they don’t even know they’re eligible until the hospital has gone over their paperwork.
Kunde’s story is not all that different from that of Nicole Tanner, the founder of Swig and a breast cancer survivor. Twelve years ago, Tanner’s breast cancer removal surgery was paid for by an anonymous donor through a Dixie Regional Medical Center program. Tanner only needed to pay $100 for her treatment, which on average costs between $10,000 and $15,000. Now Tanner is able to provide other women with that same surprise.
“I don’t know who my donor was to this day,” Tanner said. “I’m very grateful that I’m in this position now because I remember that feeling of what that meant to me …. If we can help people breathe a little easier, that’s what it’s all about.”
Since its start in 2010, Swig has been dedicated to giving back to the community. In August Swig held a fundraiser for Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit that assists governments worldwide to rescue victims of sex trafficking. The fundraiser was such a success that Tanner didn’t want to stop the feel-good moments, so she decided to draw on her own story. Save the Cups is perfect for Swig, she said, because selling thousands of cups of soda, while giving back to women who are literally saving their cups, brings everything full circle for Tanner.
“It just fits with who we are,” she said. “We’ll just continue to keep helping women as long as our customers are willing to donate.”
Although Breast Cancer Awareness Month has been over for some time now, customers can still make donations to the Save the Cups campaign. Swig drive-thrus offer two Save the Cups drinks, “The Founder” and “The Fighter,” and $1 from each purchase goes to the campaign. Swig also sells T-shirts for $25 online and $15 goes to Save the Cups. Donations of any amount can also be added to any order online or in stores.
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