Jill McLaughlin Photo
Julie Morrow, founder of Chaves County Cancer Fund fundraiser Walk for Hope, said she feels blessed to know she has “been a blessing to others” with her community work.
Behind the bright smile, warm brown eyes and youthful brunette hair, Julie Morrow abounds with a vibrant energy. She surrounded herself with paperwork after setting up a three-sided posterboard before sitting down to talk, Thursday.
The words “Walk for Hope” sparkled on the pink board.
Morrow begins her story with the timeline of how she arrived in Roswell 40 years ago. She says she considers the town her home now — a home she shares with hundreds of grateful cancer survivors.
As one of Roswell’s community treasures, Morrow has given countless hours in the past few years organizing the Walk for Hope, a fundraiser that has collected an estimated $118,000 for the Chaves County Cancer Fund to provide financial assistance to locals diagnosed with cancer.
The mother of two grown children and grandmother of four, Morrow found herself searching for a way to give back to her community after her own personal loss.
“I’ve lost a [auth] lot of people in my life but it never gets any easier,” Morrow said.
Morrow, 55, who married a classmate from Roswell High School, lost her mother to a rare form of cancer. It was her mother’s second fight following a three-year battle with breast cancer. She also lost two grandmothers, two grandfathers and recently lost a brother-in-law to cancer.
“So you can see the reason I’m so passionate about cancer care and people who are going through that,” Morrow said. “I hate cancer. And I don’t think it’s necessary. I wish I could do more and at least we’re doing something now.”
Morrow volunteered for years for a national cancer fundraising organization before organizing the Walk for Hope. The local walk raises funds that remain in the community.
“I do other things in the community but Walk for Hope is my passion,” she said.
Morrow also hosts a diabetes support group once a month, sits on the Roswell Occupancy Tax Board, is involved with her church and volunteers for the Chaves County Pregnancy Resource Center. She also is now vice president of the board of the Chaves County Cancer Fund, assessing applications.
Growing up, Morrow said she learned compassion, community service and caring from her parents. She would often show up to holiday dinners and find “a bunch of strangers” at the table. Her father, who owned several businesses in town, would meet people and find they didn’t have a place to eat for the holidays, she said.
But, her mother was her hero.
“She’s my inspiration. She loved people and she never said an unkind word about anybody. I do this for her,“ Morrow said.
In 2010, its first year, the event stirred $20,000 in donations with 1,800 people attending. In 2011, $40,000 was collected. Last year, $58,000 was collected and some 3,500 walkers joined the event.
In October, Morrow also organized a Paint the Town Pink fundraiser that raised more than $19,000 in one month with community groups carrying out different events.
All money that goes to the Chaves County Cancer Fund is dispersed to cancer patients who live in the county. The money pays for mortgages, rent, utilities and some medications. It also helps them travel for treatments.
“We try to get as much information out to the people as we can,” she said.
Morrow said her involvement with the local community has helped her in many ways.
“I have lost all of my immediate family, all of my family. I’ve lost everybody. I have my sister, that’s who I have left,” she said. “These people who I work with doing all these wonderful events, I consider my family. I think they’re my chosen family.”
Doing Walk for Hope has helped her heal, she said.
“I still have pain for my loss but it has been very, very healing for me,” Morrow said. “So I’ll do it as long as I can. I’m blessed when I know that I have been a blessing to others. And that’s how I see it. I feel so blessed that I’ve had the opportunity to help others.”
This year’s Walk for Hope is set for May 10 at Cielo Grande Recreation Area. Anyone interested in joining the effort can call Morrow at 637-9550, Team Coordinator Crystal Hester at 420-2253, or Survivor Coordinator at 808-0075.
Record Staff Writer