Team Up Montana Truly a "Team" Effort to Help Cancer Victims - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Team Up Montana Truly a "Team" Effort to Help Cancer Victims

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MISSOULA -

Every year, about 5,000 people are diagnosed with some form of cancer in Montana. Team Up Montana is there to help them with the financial burden that comes along with a diagnosis.

"Cancer has a way of not just attacking the body, but it attacks the soul."

Mike Bullard, who is the executive director of the St. Patrick Foundation, recalls the time when his father-in-law lost his battle with cancer.

"Anyone who's been through it, whether you've been through it yourself, or you've watched a family member or a friend go through it, it leaves a lasting impression," Mike told ABC FOX Montana.

For the program coordinator for Team Up Montana, Alice Gardner, Mike's story hits close to home.

"My oldest son, who is 32 now and his name is Jessie, was diagnosed with two types of Leukemia in 2000, and we almost lost him," Alice said, as tears welled up on her eyes.

Team Up Montana started in 2009 to bring awareness of people diagnosed with breast cancer and to help those faced with paying for the cost of treatment. The criteria was simple:

"Are you a Western Montana... Or Montanan, who has either just finished or is going through treatment for cancer? Do you have a medical need? Can you get a medical referral?" Mike said.

Initially, funds raised paid for mammography screenings for the uninsured or under-insured. Now, it helps people diagnosed with all forms of cancer.

"If we were helping people financially, then we needed to represent all cancers so that anyone in need, who has cancer," Mike added in.

Support for the cause has exploded! People from all over Montana can be seen sporting the pink Team Up Montana jerseys, in which part of the proceeds benefit cancer victims, during the month of October or during Griz games.

"I think the more that you get that awareness out there," Danny Kissler, who is the Senior Offensive Linebacker for the Griz said. "The younger kids will realize that it's an important issue."

"I tell you, it makes me emotional when I look out into the crowd and I see the people with these jerseys on," Alice said.

But it's truly the effort from these "team" players that have lead to the success of Team Up Montana.

"I was so grateful for everything that was done for my son, and that he's here today," Alice went on to say, "And I know it sounds kind of corny, but this is my way of giving back."

"And we're here to help them with that financial burden," Mike added.

Saturday marks the culmination of a year-round fundraising effort by Team Up Montana to bring awareness to those affected by breast cancer before and during the Griz Pink Football Game.

You can join the team. Saturday's festivities all begin when you wear pink to the Griz game.  Stop by the Team Up Tailgate starting at 11 a.m.  Then, watch the parade of cancer survivors as they march along Campus Drive at 11:45 a.m.  All cancer survivors will be recognized before kick-off at 1 p.m.

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