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Hundreds of prison inmates help raise money for cancer care

More than 600 inmates walked the yard at Northern Nevada Correctional Center on Sunday to raise money for Carson Advocates for Cancer Care.

It was the ninth annual walk organized at NNCC and the largest in participants. And, over the years, former correctional officer Pat McGaffin said, inmates at NNCC and other institutions around the state have raised more than $200,000 for cancer victims and research.

The inmates themselves organized most of the event. McGaffin said Robert Stoltz and David Abarra were elected by the inmates to head that effort along with Officer Donna O’Brien.

“With her assistance, it took a committee of 50 people to execute the actual shindig,” said Stoltz.

For him, the effort was, in part, personal. He said he lost his mother to cancer last year.

The community thinks people in prison are “all thugs, but when we do something like this, it’s like, ‘wow, prisoners did that.’ It’s a way to give back.”

He said the prison staff contributes to the effort as well, this year donating about $2,000 to sponsor inmates who participate.

Abarra said inmates themselves, their families and friends also contribute, buying tickets, sponsoring inmates who agree to walk a certain number of miles and buying raffle tickets.

This year’s top prize in the raffle: a coveted TV set.

Gistarve Ruffin, representing the prison NAACP chapter, said that group has also contributed each year. So has the prison’s Vietnam Veterans chapter. President Ed

Jeffries said the veterans made a $500 donation to the event.

He said the veterans also make an annual $2,000 donation to the Stead Elementary School in Reno.

Michael Hughes of NAACP said they are also trying to provide inmates with “hygiene packs” similar to the gift baskets other groups now donate periodically provide to inmates.

But he said much of their current efforts are focused on developing re-entry help for inmates approaching their release date ” including providing advice on job interviews, cover letters and resumes. They hope to raise some money for that in a bake sale now being planned.

“When these things happen, it just seems like everybody pulls together,” said Stoltz. “And the administration helps. Instead of shooting us down and just saying no, they work with us.”

The first three years of the event, the money went to the Susan Komen fund for cancer research. McGaffin said that was changed to Carson Advocates for Cancer Care because “all the funds are used directly in the community here.”

Pat Williams, who runs CACC said fully 90 percent of the money they receive goes directly to patient care.

Warden Jim Benedetti said any inmate who is in the general population can participate in the event. Nearly half of the 1,350 at NNCC ” more than 600 ” did so this year.

Another cancer walk is scheduled next week at Lovelock Correctional Center.

– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.