Memorial Day weekend 2012 changed Bill Outlaw's life.
It also has changed the lives of more than 200 other families.
It was on that weekend that Outlaw was told that a routine physical had revealed he had acute myeloid leukemia.
Following his recovery, he created The Outlaw Foundation that will hold its sixth annual 5K Run/Walk on Saturday at Carver Elementary School. Registration will start at 7:30 a.m.
All proceeds go to assisting families of cancer victims by helping the families pay utility bills and mortgages and providing gas and food cards. To date, the foundation has spent a total of $298,047.70 for patient assistance and has assisted 226 families.
The Jen Gallo family is one those 226 families.
The mother of three boys, ages 14, 16 and 27, was diagnosed in December with stage 1 breast cancer. She is undergoing chemotherapy and will have surgery later in the year.
Gallo, who lives in Wilmington, found out about The Outlaw Foundation while going through a list of resources provided by Going Beyond the Pink, a Wilmington agency.
Gallo said she thought that The Outlaw Foundation was a good match for her family.
"I connected with The Outlaw Foundation over financial support," she said. "Like anybody else going through this, we are getting hit with some heavy medical bills.
"Even though we have medical insurance, we still are being hit with our out-of-pocket match twice because of when our fiscal year turns over. Our fiscal year turns over April 1. So we are going to get hit with it twice."
So, even with coverage, it is still a big hit on a family, she said.
Gallo said her experience with The Outlaw Foundation has been very positive, pleasant, easy and quick.
"It is nice to deal with an agency that is based locally, though they are not local to me," she said. "I'm finding that communicating with a small local agency is a much more personal and helpful experience. It is a different level of assistance, but it is a different level of compassion that I sense."
Gallo said she thinks Outlaw's experience as a cancer survivor is very much evident in the foundation.
In turn it has affected her, she said. Gallo said she is not yet able to provide financial help, but that she wants to help others in the same way that they are helping her.
Because of her health, Gallo said she will be unable to attend the 5K.
"We raised $14,939.59 at our 5K in 2018, and 330 people participated," said Jessica Bryan, one of the event organizers. "Our opening ceremony consists of a message from our founder, guest speaker, moment of silence, prayer and a balloon release. This starts at 9 a.m. with the actual race starting at 9:30.
"The guidelines to apply for assistance is to fill out our application assistance, live in North Carolina east of Interstate 95, must be currently receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy with proof from a cancer doctor. Once approved, the applicant is approved for a total of $1,200."
There is a $25 registration fee for the 5K if paid by Wednesday, March 13. It is $30 on the day of the event. Registration is free for children 5 and younger.
The event will be held over a new certified 5K race course. It will include a St. Patrick's Day costume contest and presentation of the Cynthia Smith Award to the team with the largest number of participants.
The award is given in memory of Smith, a friend of Outlaw's and a teacher at Carver Elementary School. Smith died following her battle with leukemia.
For more information, contact Bryan at 1-800-334-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BASED ON FAITH, PRAYER
The foundation was founded based on prayer, Outlaw said.
Outlaw said that following his recovery, he prayed to God over and over begging for an answer as to why God had spared him.
"I promised whatever He had for me, I would make Him proud and do it to the fullest of my ability, just give me the answer and I will get started," Outlaw said.
It was sometime later that a family friend was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
She was sent to Chapel Hill for treatment because her cancer was further along than Outlaw's had been.
Outlaw and his wife, Candace, went to visit her.
Outlaw said he tried to brace himself before entering the room, thinking he was about to walk into an emotional situation, but when they entered it was upbeat.
She kept referring to Outlaw and what she was about to endure.
A doctor came in and started explaining the start of the process and what to expect. After she was done talking, the friend asked Outlaw if had any questions for the doctor.
"I was a little shocked," he said. "Then the doctor looked at me and said, 'You are the one.' I said yes, it is me."
The doctor told Outlaw his friend had referred to him several times since her arrival in Chapel Hill.
"We went home, and about 3 a.m. I felt like I had been slapped in the face," he said. "It was clear at that time and moment what God's purpose was for me. I had heard of these things happening to people, but never before had it happened to me.
"I would say that this is called a spiritual awakening. I went about the next couple of days pondering what had happened and what direction I was heading. I wanted to start a foundation to help others financially or any other way that we could."
His wife said it should be The Outlaw Foundation called O3 (Outlaw, Outlast, Outlive) with a goal to help others during these unfortunate difficult times.
"Many people lose everything they have worked for their entire lives," Outlaw said. "Our goal is to cut all of the red tape and let nurses and doctors tell us who needs the help. They know best. Then we can come in and make mortgage payments, electric bill payments, hotel expenses or provide gas cards.
"I am in debt to God for healing and blessing me and my family. So I have promised I would do this, and I will see this become reality."