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Soulful Giving board members positively fight back after struggling with their own cancer diagnoses

Judi Swift recalls the overwhelming feeling she felt time and again after hearing her father, two brothers and, eventually, her mother all were diagnosed with cancer: helpless.

COURTESY ART - The board of the Soulful Giving Foundation. Sitting in the front row, on either side of founder Linda Yoshida, are Judi Swift (left) and Madi Deotsch (right), who shared their encounters with cancer with Pamplin Media Group."When somebody's diagnosed with cancer, as a loved one there's not a thing you can do to help them. You can be there and you can support them, but you're 100 percent dependent on the medical community," Swift recalls. "When my dad was first diagnosed and I realized there was nothing I can do to help him, I knew I had to get involved some way."

COURTESY ART  - Judi Swift takes a moment from her strenuous volunteer activities to enjoy the bands at the Souful Giving Blanket Concert, happening Aug. 5.Swift took that frustrated energy and helped form The Soulful Giving Foundation seven years ago with Junki and Linda Yoshida, and is currently the foundation's vice president.

That initial feeling is one that resonates with other members of the Soulful Giving Foundation board. All have watched family members and dear friends fight and sometimes succumb to cancer in many forms, and all then decided they needed to volunteer their time to elevating cancer treatment and research.

Among those volunteers is Madi Deotsch, the foundation's secretary.

"You're so helpless when something like this comes up," Deotsch said. "You wish you could jump in and do something. So when I go into our little planning committee meetings in that small way I feel like I am kind of doing something."

Each year, the foundation organizes a culminating fundraiser called the Blanket Concert, held on the lawn of the Yoshidas' backyard.

Swift says one of the things that keeps her motivated is seeing the "tangible" results to the foundation's fundraising efforts. Each year, proceeds go toward programs and research topics for Randall Children's Hospital and Providence Cancer Center, both based in Portland. Blanket Concerts' past fundraising led to a $250,000 donation to create a family room at Randall's pediatric cancer ward.

Because her father and mother sought treatment at Providence, Swift was able to see first-hand where the money goes.

"By the time my mom was diagnosed, they could pinpoint the tumor and go directly after the tumor and use the immunotherapy that the doctors and the researchers right there at the (Providence) Cancer Center have developed," Swift said. "That's why we continue to support them."

Deotsch notes that seeing tangible results also plays out in the board's work ethic.

"I think for a lot of people, especially like Linda and Junki, they could write out a check of a donation, but they really wanted to push up their sleeves and do that sweat equity and that has really inspired all of us to do the same thing," she said. "It's sort of easier sometimes to do something from the wallet, but this is really something from the heart that all of us do."

Deotsch's loss to cancer is fresh - her sister, who survived for 14 years with breast cancer, died just a few weeks ago at the age of 54. Though she was a fighter - Deotsch describes her as "everybody's hero" - "in the end, it's just a dreaded disease," Deotsch said.

Deotsch finds solace in Soulful Giving, in the "family" she's found through getting involved.

"We have that common experience of having lost someone from cancer who's experienced it and so that in itself is kind of a bonding experience," she added. "Then from that comes this determination and will power like, we're going to fight this in this one way that we can — we're not in a lab, we can't find a cure but maybe in this way, because it all takes money, this is something that we can do to maybe help. Junki calls it 'positive revenge,' like were going to fight back but we're going to fight back in a positive way."

The result is the Blanket Concert, and its seventh incarnation is this coming Saturday, Aug. 5, at the Yoshida Estate, 29330 S.E. Stark St. Tickets are on sale at soulfulgiving.org/tickets.

Pamplin Media Group is a supporter and sponsor of Soulful Giving.

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