SEBRING – In 2004, she developed lung cancer, went through treatment for the disease at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and is now cancer-free.
In return for her good fortune, Diane Thompson decided to do what she could to help others overcome the disease and those researching for a cure, to come closer to success.
In an “every little bit counts” effort, Thompson has set up a second-hand table at the Amvets Post 21 where members, friends, family and the public can stop in, peruse the goods, buy something and, in turn, do their little bit to help Thompson’s effort. To get into the Amvets, the public must be with a member to sign in at the post’s bar.
About a year ago, Thompson, a retired medical records clerk, set up the card table in the Amvets social hall and put about 20 items of her own -- golf clubs, flower baskets, dog bowls -- up for sale.
She priced each of them and left a slotted box for payment for those who wanted to buy something.
Over about a year, others in the Amvets began to leave donations under the table, and as items sold, Thompson would restock the used knick-knacks which grew to include books, handbags, picture frames, a cased mirror and jewelry.
Even though the used items mostly sell from 25 cents to a dollar, Thompson managed to raise over $1,000 for the American Cancer Society for cancer research.
It’s not a breathtaking amount in the grand scope of cancer research fundraising, but a little goes a long way, said Lee Ann Hinskey, American Cancer Society, Florida Division specialist, Relay For Life.
To recognize Thompson and the support of her husband, Bill, a recognition of her work will be held at 10 a.m., Aug. 6, at the Amvets Post, 623 U.S. 27. and through the Amvets, the money raised will be given to the ARC.
Bill Thompson, a U.S. Navy veteran, got he and his wife into the Amvets after moving to Sebring from Meadville, Pa., 15 years ago.
During a stop at the table in the Amvets Friday, the Thompsons looked over what has and hasn’t sold.
Diane Thompson said a lot more donations have come in since she began with her own items and pieces she found at yard sales.
Once a week, she and her husband come in to price newly donated goods and rotate to the top what had been left under the table.
Prices range from 5 cents for pint glasses to $100 for a set of golf clubs.
“Everyone here has really been involved, God bless them. It wouldn’t work without them,” she said.
Hinskey, who’s based in Sarasota, said the timing of Thompson’s heartfelt donation was “perfect.”
The 2015 “Relay For Life” season is gearing up and three Highlands County events committee positions are currently being filled. “Relay For Life” is made of teams around the world who camp out overnight and take turns walking or running around a track or path at a local high school, park, or fairground, up to 24 hours long, raising funds for the American Cancer Society.
Hinskey added what made Thompson’s effort more admirable was that at first she wasn’t too aware of all the services the cancer society could provide to patients but has since fully embraced its services and support.
“I think it’s amazing that she didn’t know a lot about the ARC but she’s taken it upon herself to raise money for this cause. We find usually the people that care the most are the people that were affected the most,” she said.
Throughout most weeks, donated items and products are brought in piece by piece, said Donna Lee, Amvets Post 21 head bartender. She said members are inspired by Thompson’s sincerity and behind-the-scenes ARC fund-raising campaign and on a fairly regular bring used items in for Thompson to sell.
“We do this to help out. Diane, she’s in charge. This is a way for one of our members to do outreach and it was her idea,” she said.
Amvets Post 21 Commander Butler Smith said the effort has gone so well he told her she could keep the table up for another year.
“It’s for a good cause and a lot of the members buy stuff or donate so it works for everybody,” he said.
As she organized books Friday, Thompson said she didn’t have to give much thought to putting together the simple, small-but-effective fund drive for the ARC for what the organization has done for her and countless other cancer patients.
“All I can say is I have an angel on my shoulder; I was blessed and thanks God for the Moffitt Center and all the cancer research being done,” she said.
To donate, call Thompson (863) 382-0460; the Amvets, (863) 385-0234. For information on the ARC, contact Hinskey, (863) 382-4110 or email email@example.com.