Local businessman and community leader Durwood Stephenson was known to get into the occasional schoolyard scuffle as a young boy in defense of his little sister, Kay.
“I was the older brother she looked up to,” he says. “And she was the younger sister I protected.”
Though Durwood was more than willing to fight for his sister, he could not fight her greatest opponent: late-stage breast cancer. But, Kay did not suffer in defeat during her five-year battle. She spent her time handwriting inspirational notes to family and friends in need of a kind word, never showing her own struggle.
“Even when she went to the grocery store, she was dressed and always wore full make-up,” says Durwood. “Many didn’t know she was as sick as she was.”
After Kay died two years ago, Durwood and his wife, Vickie, sought a way to remember her and her kindness toward others.
“Kay had the resources for treatment all over the world, but many [people] do not,” Durwood says. “She often spoke of other patients she encountered during her treatment who didn’t.”
After consulting the Johnston Health Foundation, the Stephensons decided to establish the Kay S. Wallace Endowment for Cancer Patient Support, with interest earnings going to the Angel Fund. The Angel Fund provides cancer patients in financial need with necessities they otherwise might not be able to afford. Examples include transportation and nutrition during chemotherapy treatments and wigs.
In December, the foundation held a reception at Johnston Health Oncology and Hematology to acknowledge the Stephensons’ gift, and to cut the ribbon on the Kay S. Wallace Education Room where patients can meet for classes on nutrition, wellness and disease management.
“We’re never going to forget those we are close to,” Durwood says. “And we don’t want the world to forget them either. Through the endowment, Kay’s name will live on. And while patients may not know her, they will see her name and ask who she was.”