WEST POINT — More than 60 kayakers took a relaxing paddle down the Chattahoochee River on Saturday to help a loving wife and mother battle breast cancer.
Family, friends and complete strangers joined together for the inaugural Kayak Parade for Kim and Poker Run. Folks paddled out at Hardley Creek recreation area near the West Point Dam and floated down the Chattahoochee, stopping along the way at various stations to pick up poker cards. The group ended at the West Point River Park pavilion in West Point next to City Hall.
While it was a fun day on the water, the group was also gathered to show support for Kim Murphy, her husband, Danny, and two daughters, Kayleigh Hester and Karleigh Murphy.
A little more than a month ago, Kim found a lump in her breast about the size of a grape, said Danny Murphy. Just a week later that same lump was the size of a lemon. Doctors performed an ultrasound and confirmed the family’s worst nightmare: Kim had stage two breast cancer, Danny said.
“When someone looks at you and says a loved one has cancer, it’s a game changer,” he said with tears in his eyes. “You know that life is never going to be the same.”
After sharing the news with loved ones and close friends, those same people immediately jumped into action to help the Murphy family out.
“She’s like the sister I never had,” said Angie Dennard, Kim’s cousin.
“She calls me her niece. We’re just one big family,” added Rachael Egli, also Kim’s cousin.
Danny Murphy runs a business but was determined to be by his wife’s side during her treatments and eventual surgery.
“The first round of chemo was hard on her,” he said. “The second treatment wasn’t as bad but she is mentally distraught. She’s scared. There are no guarantees,” he paused to wipe away a tear. “It’s the not knowing that’s the hardest part.”
“If he isn’t working, he isn’t making money,” said Dennard. “But we want him to be with her as much as possible.”
The group also wanted to help with Kim’s medical bills.
“They have insurance, but the cost of co-pays is very high. The cost of her medications is high,” Dennard said. “… When her hair falls out (from chemo treatments), she wants to get a wig … the medical center sells wigs that are comfortable, thin and look like real hair. Then she looked at the price. The cost of a wig was $500.”
Family and friends became determined to offset some of those costs and formed teams to plan different fundraisers. The Kayak Parade for Kim is in honor of the last fun event the Murphy family and loved ones shared together before her diagnosis.
“We started recreational kayaking and fell in love with it,” Dennard explained. “We got a group together the last weekend in June and talked Kim and Danny into coming with us. … We had so much fun we were going to form the Hoochee – Coochee Kayak Club,” she laughed. “But a few days after that, Kim got her diagnosis … we turned all our attention to her.”
The Kayak Parade for Kim included a raffle plus the group sold food, drinks and T-shirts. There was also a table inside the pavilion for folks to write notes of inspiration to Kim. But the biggest surprise came from GLL Marine, who rented out kayaks for people who did not have one. The business donated all the rental fees to the Murphy family.
The event raised about $4,000, said Dennard and Egli.
“We’re so appreciative of the people who came out to make this a success,” Dennard stated.
“People who don’t even know Kim personally were willing to come out and donate,” Egli added.
Kim was not well enough to be at the fundraiser, but her family kept her in the loop via phone.
Just then, Kim called and had a message to pass along to her family.
“Tell them I’m proud of them,” she said.
Her family felt the same way.
“This event shows how blessed we truly are,” stated Doris Almand, Kim’s mother. “People are so good … it’s amazing. This is unbelievable.”
“It’s just wonderful to have all the support,” said Danny Murphy. “We’ve been bombarded with love since day one, people bringing us food and helping out.”
Dennard and Egli said they plan to make the kayak parade an annual event. Both decided the fundraiser will help a different family or cause each year.
“Next year, it may be to help buy wigs for women battling cancer in LaGrange. Or something else if a greater need pops up,” said Dennard.
“Cancer has messed with the wrong family,” she added. “Cancer is a horrible thing, but there will be a happy ending. Kim’s cancer was caught early. She’s going to beat it and will be on the front lines with us next year.”
Friends and family have organized another fundraiser for Kim Murphy with live bands, an auction, raffle and more. It will take place on Sept. 17 from 8 p.m. to midnight at the Lafayette Garden Inn hotel at 1513 Lafayette Parkway.
Anyone wanting more information can contact Angie Dennard at 706-594-0609 or Rachael Egli at 706-594-1478.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.