First Baptist Church’s Emporium has a special beneficiary this year: Thumbs Up Mission, which helps take some of the weight from the shoulders of families struggling with cancer.
The annual shopping event at the church on Green Street raised $22,000 for its beneficiary last year, according to Dena Hudgins, who chairs the event with Lynn DeVries. The church is shooting for that total or more this year.
And the funds will go to a worthy cause: Thumbs Up Mission is part of the Keaton Franklin Coker Foundation, and it funds weekend getaways for families with a member battling cancer.
The foundation’s namesake died in 2014 after a two-year battle with brain cancer. While fighting the disease, the Gainesville family was given a trip by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“For five glorious days we played and laughed, and banished all cancer treatment activities from our minds,” the foundation explains on its website. “We treasured that gift of time together, but now that Keaton is gone, the value of that treasure is priceless. We will never forget it, and will always be grateful for it.”
Now, the foundation and the Coker family help other families dealing with cancer escape their worries, if only for a little while, by sending them to destinations for a weekend of fun and fellowship.
“We were thrilled to have an application from them this year,” Hudgins said on Friday. “It turns out that one of the committee members had family members who had participated in one of the weekend retreats that they sponsor for cancer families, and it had just been — in her words — a life-changing event.”
The foundation also pairs families with volunteer families, usually made up of people who were previously on a retreat, to spend the weekend together.
“Those volunteers make bonds with the families that continue well past the weekend — that may continue for the rest of their lives,” Hudgins said.
To raise money for Thumbs Up, First Baptist Church will have 72 tables set up for more than 60 vendors beginning 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 27, and concluding 3 p.m. Saturday.
Along with craft goods and other items — including a hefty selection of Christmas gear — the church manages a large selection of baked goods up for sale during the event.