By Shelly Dusic
Four years ago when we first began planning Vandalia-Con, we hoped that we would be able to help people by getting together, working toward a common goal, and having some fun along the way. It was only an idea until we introduced it to you, the steampunk community and then, through your efforts and contributions it became a beautiful reality. The first obstacle was getting a venue, fortunately the beautiful historic Blennerhassett hotel, which was built in Parkersburg, WV in 1896, was willing to donate the meeting space to accommodate the building of this dream. It just kept going from there. The success of this event has already surpassed all expectations of its founders; myself (The Captain) and Mr. Cat. There was just no way to predict the awe inspiring humanitarian generosity that lives in the hearts, heads, cogs, and gears of the steampunk community.
We donate 100% of proceeds from our event to evidence-based breast cancer intervention programs. Because of this we are dependent on our volunteers to run the event, promote it, and provide entertainment. They have certainly came through. In just three years Vandalia-Con has raised over $15,000. The event has generated over $140,000 worth of earned media coverage, over $250,000 worth of donations, thousands of volunteer hours, and we reached over 1,000,000 people with the message that early detection saves lives. Last year we hit our goal, and our fundraising contributed to a 3-D mammography overhaul of Bonnie’s Bus, the state’s only mobile mammography unit where no woman over 40 is turned away regardless of ability to pay. The new bus will be at this year’s event providing on site screening mammography. The in-kind donations and volunteer hours help the WV Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program meet their federal grant match requirements, so they can keep their funding and provide free or low cost screening to uninsured and underinsured women in West Virginia. With the repeal of the Affordable Care Act 185,000 people in our state will lose insurance and many more will no longer be covered for cancer screenings so it is more important than ever that we continue to work diligently to provide access to these life-saving services.
Vandalia-Con has changed lives. So far our Women’s Screening Clinic has identified two women who needed diagnostic follow-up, we have navigated people to insurance coverage, and we have gotten people in touch with community resources. There are even two men, who because of their involvement with Vandalia-Con, sought out cancer screening and found their cancers early. Both have received treatment and prognosis for these two survivors looks good. Two lives saved is a legacy worth being proud of!
Never content with the status quo- this year our guest speaker Jade Myers from the Rochester Institute of Technology will be coming to share with us how she uses her creativity to build 3-D prosthetic hands for people in need all around the world. We will even do a prosthetic build on site! Steampunk has allowed us to tap into an amazing group of talented, generous people that are willing to go out of their way to help others. It has given us an opportunity to share their gifts with the world and through our celebration of the hopeful past we are creating a very real hope-filled future for many. For more information about how you can contribute to Vandalia-Con and the Vandalia-Con Pink Block Party, go to www.Vandalia-Con.org.