Missy (Malter) Newell wanted to give back to the community that helped her so much during her five-year battle with breast cancer.
The lifelong Hiawatha woman who died in October 2001 left behind a legacy of giving that has carried on to the community by her family and friends for the past nineteen years. Missy had a “vision and a dream” to establish and hold an annual event in Hiawatha that would raise funds for local cancer patients. So friends and family of Missy came together to form a committee in 2001 to set up the Missy Newell Memorial Fun Run, always held in October in Hiawatha. October was also Breast Cancer Awareness month and also the month that Missy died.
“This is where Missy wanted her memorial money to go. She set up the fund and the scholarship before she died. It all kind of went together,” said Courtney Riley, longtime friend.
Over the past nearly 19 years, more than $162,000 was raised in Missy’s name helping “hundreds” of local cancer patients fighting ALL types of cancers. There’s been no application process or red tape to access the money. When a name was given to the family or fund member, a check was given to the patient, which was the way Missy wanted it.
“When we heard that people were suffering from cancer, we’d get money to them, no questions asked,” said Michelle Witham, Missy’s sister. “There are so many expenses that go with fighting cancer. The fund put no stipulations on the money and made the money very accessible. My sister wanted it that way. Missy received so much support during her own five-year battle that she really wanted to give back to the community and this is how she wanted to do it.”
Witham also said that the fund has donated a $500 scholarship to a worthy Hiawatha High School senior for the past 18 years as well. Many of the earlier recipients of this scholarship were friends/classmates of Missy’s nephews and nieces. Later on, some were friends/classmates of Missy and Frank’s son, Peyton. In the past few years, some of the recipients didn’t know Missy or her family very well, but ALL were very thankful for the scholarship and were touched by Missy’s story, her battle, her desire to bring cancer awareness to our community and to Brown County, and were grateful for Missy’s “lone vision” to establish a local fund, The Missy Newell Memorial Fund, that would help local cancer patients with their own battles against cancer. Missy would have been SO proud of what her fund accomplished!
For nearly two decades, Run event after Run event, money continued to come in and be raised. Witham said that even in some years when participant numbers in the event were lower than in past years before that “donations still came in from everywhere! Missy’s name would sell the event; Missy’s vision of helping others rubbed off on our community; and participants and non-participants made sure to support the event!”
On a humorous note, Witham said that “participants always wanted to know what the T-shirt would look like, but that the fund always kept it a secret until Race Day! We’re pretty sure we didn’t disappoint anyone with T-shirt quality/color/and design!” Witham knows several family members as well as community members that still have ALL 18 of the T-shirts that were printed and still wear them proudly!
Not only did The Missy Newell Memorial Run/Fun Walk thrive vigorously and generate helpful funds with heartfelt intentions, but Memorial Donations by loved ones to Missy’s Fund became a secondary source of donations that built genuine legacy to Missy’s Fund. Witham said
“When those that have lost a loved one to cancer donated those memorial dollars to Missy’s Fund, that made us proud,” Witham said. “As Missy’s family, knowing that our community believed that we were being good stewards of their donor dollars was an entrusting virtue . It allowed for more money to help a multitude of local people that were fighting ALL types of cancers.”
Still, Missy’s legacy continued to grow in ways her family and friends never thought possible. To date, her fund helped inspire area communities of Sabetha, Seneca, and Falls City to establish their own community events that raise funds to help cancer patients in their own respective communities, all in the fight against cancer. All are events inspired by Missy’s vision/dream and The Missy Newell Memorial Run! The entire Malter/Newell families are so very proud of this legacy that Missy inspired and of the continued support each respective event offers within their own communities!
On the heels of that, we, Missy’s family and the fund’s committee say farewell and send ever so grateful, heartfelt thanks for nineteen years of “helping us help those with cancer.” Know that a brand new local cancer fund is starting up that will surely also help carry on Missy’s legacy in our community — HOPE Brown County.
Missy’s family proudly passes the torch to this new cancer fund and encourages our community to also support it with pride and generosity!
In remembering Missy’s kind and gentle spirit, and as her belief in “hope for a cure” lives on, her family and fund say a bittersweet farewell, but hope that people will not forget the good accomplished by The Missy Newell Memorial Fund, and remember with hope, Missy’s favorite saying: “Treasure each other in the recognition that we do not know how long we shall have each other.”
~ Joshua L. Liebman