CRANDON - Forest County Ties that Bind Us works to provide cancer prevention education and helps people dealing with cancer in its community. Founders of the group never expected it to grow as much as it has, and certainly never thought they'd get nationally recognized for their work.
"It was really exciting," said Kadie Montgomery.
"I was surprised," said Jodie Stamper.
Montgomery and Stamper have been a part of Forest County Ties that Bind Us from the beginning.
"I never thought that it would get this big when we first started it," said Montgomery. "I thought it would be a little organization but little Crandon and Forest County really took off with the whole thing."
Now, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health named Ties that Bind Us a Community Star of 2018. The award honors people or organizations that are dedicated to rural health.
"I think this is our goal that we've been looking for is just to say we are a rural community, we do help one another… it's an amazing feeling to be able to say 'Yeah, we're doing that,'" said Montgomery.
Through community support with events like the annual Colors of Cancer Run, the Forest County group purchased two robots to allow kids in cancer treatment to still attend school, continually hosts cancer prevention events, and provides food and gas gift cards to cancer patients.
"[Forest County is] more than 30 minutes away from a hospital so for patients who have cancer who have to travel to medical appointments frequently, they have radiation, they have chemo, things like that," said Stamper. "It becomes a struggle for patients."
"Being a rural community, we're excluded from a lot of other non-profit organizations and funding," said Montgomery. "So we really needed to create something that worked for our community and our county."
But neither Montgomery or Stamper ever imagined that Ties that Bind Us would work so well.
"We just thought if we could make a difference in a few people's lives it'd be awesome but to be recognized at this level is just really rewarding," said Stamper.
The award was officially announced Thursday, which was also National Rural Health Day.
Both Montgomery and Stamper credit community support for the group's success. If someone is interested in donating or volunteering for the group, visit their Facebook page