Monday, July 22, 2024

Drag Queen Sugar Vermonte Raises Money For Cancer Research

Toledo’s favorite Drag Queen and owner of Maybe Cheese Born With It, Sugar Vermonte, was named one of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Northwest Ohio Visionaries of the Year.

Each year, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), a nonprofit fighting to cure blood cancer, names “Visionaries” from around the US. These Visionaries compete in a 10-week competition to raise money to fund the society’s mission. Visionaries are nominated by community members that want to highlight the difference they are making in their communities. These Visionaries are chosen for their competitive spirit and compassion for others. 

From March 28 to June 7 Visionaries will compete to try and raise as much money as they can for LLS. Sugar, the stage name of David Gedert, aims to raise $75,000 for the society. Donations to Vermote’s campaign can be made on sugarstickets.com.

Vermonte has a special connection with the competition due to the significant impact cancer has had on her life. Many of her family members were diagnosed with various cancers that unfortunately took their lives very quickly. One by one, she watched as the disease stole the lives of her loved ones. Over the course of just a couple years, Vermonte lost her entire family to the devastating disease. 

“My grandma had cancer and my mom immediately moved her into the house and we had a home nurse and palliative care and all of that. My mom became her primary caregiver,” Vermont said. “After that, my dad got diagnosed with colon cancer. What should have been treatable and looked like it was going to turn out fine quickly turned vicious and deadly, and he died within a year of diagnosis. After that, my godmother, within the next year, was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was my mom’s best friend and she died very quickly as well.

“My mom, the smartest woman I have ever known or probably ever will know, was slowly defeated by all of this cancer in her life that surrounded her and stole everybody that she loved one by one. She died, ultimately, of a stroke and diabetes about a year after that. So in the space of four years, I was orphaned in high school.”

Sugar says that participating in this fundraising competition has been a healing journey for her.

“It feels like for the first time in 20 years, I’m taking a little swing back at cancer, and it feels really good,” Vermonte said.

Paige Reyes, Campaign Development Manager of Northwest Ohio Visionaries of the Year, works with Visionaries, like Vermonte, to help them decide how they want to go about their 10 week campaign. Visionaries can undertake various activities to raise money for LLS, whether that is sponsorships, utilizing social media or throwing an event. 

Vermonte is not only utilizing her social media to make an impact but she is also deploying her awesome performance skills. She threw a “Sugar’s Big Dolly Brunch” fundraising event at Hamburger Mary’s on Saturday, May 18 where she raised a ton of money for the society. 

“Dolly Parton connects with everyone, no matter the demographics. So does cancer in a really tragic way,” Vermonte said. “Everybody has been affected by cancer in one way or another. I like to bring my message to as many people as possible to as broad a spectrum of people as possible and Dolly Parton definitely helps do that.”

Sugar also partnered with local Toledo candle company, ScentWick Candles, to create two special candles in honor of her parents, Ed and Patty Gedert. For each candle sold, a portion of the proceeds goes to Sugar’s fundraiser campaign.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is a nonprofit dedicated to the fight to find a cure for blood cancer. The society operates under three mission pillars, patient access, policy and advocacy and research into finding a cure for blood cancer.

“A lot of the research that we do actually has a far reaching impact into not only the blood cancer space, but also other other types of cancer as well,” Reyes said.

Approaches discovered in blood cancer research has been utilized in clinic trials for other cancers and diseases, including bone cancer, brain cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, kidney cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, lupus nephritis, melanoma, multiple sclerosis, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, stomach cancer and skin cancer. 


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LLS’s impact goes beyond research. The society also assists patients diagnosed with blood cancer through their policy and advocacy work as well as their support resources that assist patients as they navigate through their cancer treatment.

Blood Cancer Information Specialists are available to discuss treatment options, financial and social challenges as well as other support information via call live online chat or email. Patients and their loved ones can also find resources and information on the LLS website.

The work that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is doing has a direct impact on the Toledo area. Last year, the society assisted 358 patients in Toledo alone with their patient and co-pay assistance program, totalling over $1.1 million in medical co-pay bills. Moreover, 355 families in Toledo were supported through various other LLS programs.

“When you look at the overall impact, LLS actually are reinvesting more back into the Northwest Ohio community than is even fundraised here,” Reyes said.

The society will host a grand finale party on Friday, June 7 where they will announce the winner and runner up of the fundraising competition. They will also reveal the total amount raised by all the Visionaries throughout the 10-week competition at the event. 

After the 10-week fundraising campaign ends, Vermonte plans to keep her fundraising page open until the end of LLS’s fiscal year. Those interested in donating to Vermonte’s campaign will have until June 30 to complete their donations. 

Vermonte also hopes to continue making an impact through sharing her story. She recently shared her story at UT and BGSU and hopes to continue pursuing other public speaking opportunities to help others going through similar challenges.

“In sharing my story with people, I might be able to help somebody who was in that deep dark place where I was. I tell people I was as depressed as you can get without dying. It was so hard: orphaned in school, everybody dead and just that feeling of ultimate aloneness and not having anyone and not seeing any light at the end of the tunnel,” Vermonte said. “The fact that I could be that light for someone else makes me want to shine as bright as I possibly can.”

To read more about Sugar’s story or to donate to her campaign, visit sugarstickets.com.

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