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Local foundation helping cancer victims

Distributes $100,000 to benefit more than 300 residents over 8 years

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — As a mother and a teacher for three decades, Lee Ann Schambach had a positive impact on hundreds of lives during her career. Today, nearly 10 years after she lost her battle with breast cancer, she continues to help others via a charitable foundation established in her memory.

Over the past eight years, The Lee Ann Foundation for Victims of Cancer has helped about 330 people. It has also reached a milestone by distributing $100,000 to residents of Belmont County in Ohio and Marshall, Ohio, Wetzel and Tyler counties in West Virginia, spreading the type of love, kindness and generosity Lee Ann was known for across her beloved community.

When Lee Ann died at age 54 after a brave battle against cancer, her husband, Brian Schambach, wanted to ensure she would be remembered. He also wanted to honor her memory in a way that would help others — much the way he said his late wife would have done in life. As a result, he worked with the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley to create a nonprofit to help people suffering from breast cancer and all types of cancer.

The Lee Ann Foundation provides a wide variety of assistance: Money for food, rent, gasoline, utility bills, wigs and insurance co-payments. Brian Schambach said cancer patients often have immediate needs for financial aid that cannot be met through larger nonprofits due to the length of time it can take for those organizations to process applications.

“Most cancer patients drive a lot to appointments for chemotherapy or radiation, and they need money now,” he said. “When they apply to us, we can approve it that day.”

Schambach explained that, although the foundation does have a board of directors, he is able to personally review and approve applications for funds. Once he does so, the money is usually distributed through Wheeling Health Right, where Dee Phillips ensures that it gets to those in need.

Schambach said other businesses, organizations and individuals provide help as well. He specifically pointed to Karin Janisewski of Ohio Valley Medical Center/East Ohio Regional Hospital and Melissa Mealy, American Cancer Society administrator at Wheeling Hospital, for their help in referring applicants and more.

He also expressed appreciation to Cate Calissie, now a student at Wheeling Jesuit University, for organizing the “Play Like a Girl” fundraiser last year while she was still attending Wheeling Central Catholic High School. He said the standout athlete — Central’s only female football player — promoted the fundraising effort at all types of athletic events and raised more than $6,000. He also credited Dr. Angelo Georges, an internal medicine doctor at Wheeling Hospital, for helping Calissie determine which nonprofit to assist.

The Women of Greyhound, a nonprofit group dedicated to finding homes for retired greyhound racing dogs, also raised $11,000 for the organization last year. In total, Schambach said the foundation has collected about $175,000 so far.

The foundation’s board consists of Georges, Mealy, Phillips, Dr. Jondavid Pollock of Wheeling Hospital, Susie Nelson of CFOV and Kyla Morris.

The Schambachs were married to each other for a quarter of a century and lived in Marshall County. Their sons, Carson and Trent, were 18 and 21, respectively, when Lee Ann passed away. Brian, who now lives in St. Clairsville, believes supporting his mother through her battle with cancer inspired Trent to become a doctor. He is now a third-year resident working in Kentucky. Carson, meanwhile, just passed the Bar Exam to become and attorney.

“Trent is now a doctor and Carson is an attorney, and she would be proud of how they turned out,” Brian said of Lee Ann.

In addition to raising their two sons and nurturing the boys’ love of golf to the point that each of them earned Division 1 golf scholarships for college, Lee Ann was a kind and patient teacher in the Wetzel County Schools system for 30 years. Through it all, her family and friends say, Lee Ann had a “perpetual smile and strong work ethic.”

And just as each of the children she worked with was special to her, the applicants for assistance through her foundation are more than just names on paper to her husband.

He described patients whose income is just $735 a month who must make monthly rent payments of $400. He also reflected on a homeless woman who had stage 3 breast cancer and applied for assistance through the foundation. He met her on a street corner in downtown Wheeling and provided her with $300 cash. That meeting ultimately led to the woman securing housing for the month.

Schambach disperses the foundation’s funds carefully, usually $300-$500 at a time. He also works to raise additional money in a variety of ways, so that he can continue to help cancer patients and keep Lee Ann’s memory alive.

To apply for assistance or to donate to the foundation, go online to theleeannfoundation.com. Supporters can sign up to sponsor a fundraising event or make a direct contribution through a secure PayPal link.

All money raised is administered by the Community Foundation, and 100 percent of it goes directly to help cancer victims in the Ohio Valley. Donations are tax-deductible.

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