By Heather Bennett Eye
You probably know someone who’s had a cancer diagnosis or know someone who knows someone. It’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way. Our community is no different. People are affected every day.
Michele Bailey, founder of Bailey Brigade, and her family were affected in a big way when her husband Scott passed away in December 2021 from a rare salivary gland cancer. He was only 54. While there are many organizations giving resources to more common specific types of cancer, we need to remember that there is a wide variety of debilitating cancers. Bailey Brigade was started to honor Scott and support locals battling all types of cancer. It’s a non-profit organization that provides copay assistance, backpacks with self-care items, and scholarships for those wanting to go into the medical field.
All money donated goes to help patients from The Emerald Coast. “Your money stays local,” stated Michele, who is working with oncologist Dr. Hayes at Ascension Sacred Heart. Part of the donations go towards helping patients with their copay. Qualifying patients are handed a card at checkout letting them know the Brigade covered their copay that day.
Backpacks provided to patients consist of self-care items in themed zip lock bags such as “All Wiped Out” with cleaning and sanitizing wipes along with “Take It Easy Queasy” that comes with anti-nausea items to help with the side effects of chemotherapy. The backpacks also come with letters of encouragement and support. Local students have supplied them with letters, but anyone wanting to offer letters of encouragement can send them to Bailey Brigade. Inside the backpacks are cards with a QR code. The code will take the patients directly to a patient-only patient resource page where they can find assistance with services or discount services for them.
Another way to give back to the community for Bailey Brigade is through its scholarship program. Lukas Burgis was just announced as a scholarship winner. Lukas has also been affected by cancer in his family. He is studying medicine at Florida Atlantic University and holds a 4.6 GPA.
The community has been a huge support for Bailey Brigade. South Walton High Lacrosse and Basketball have both held fundraiser nights. The local Young Professional Networks through the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors held a costume party and silent auction with proceeds benefitting the Brigade. Owners of First Watch opened a new location in Tallahassee and donated all the proceeds from their soft opening weekend to Bailey Brigade. As Scott and Michele’s oldest son is their Operations Manager, it was personal for them as well.
“We’ve been here for 30 years,” stated Michele, referring to Walton County. “Our roots run so deep in the sand. We’ve seen the community grow and change. The heart of the community has only gotten bigger.”
If you are interested in making a donation, you can check out their website at www.baileybrigade.com. Monthly subscriptions are encouraged, but one-time donations are always appreciated. It takes approximately $50 to fill one backpack for a patient. They are always looking for corporate sponsors as well. Businesses can get their name on backpacks they sponsor, links on the patient resource page, or even a scholarship given in their company name.
Bailey Brigade is gearing up for a fall fundraising event. They are still looking for an outdoor location. If you are interested in donating space, please reach out to Michele at firstname.lastname@example.org.