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Published on January 10, 2019

female doctor holding the hand of a patient

A patient should not have to choose treatment over food

Sometimes it comes down to the hard decision: leave the gas tank empty or leave the cupboards empty. This was the dilemma facing 64-year-old Theresa Rynes of Hixton, Minn. Given a cancer diagnosis in August last year, getting to Gundersen Health System in La Crosse for treatments was her priority.

"It's a 57-mile trip one way from my home to Gundersen. Sometimes my sisters would help me out with a ride part way, but I couldn't always bother them," Theresa says.

On one visit to Gundersen, Theresa was getting a blood draw and started crying. She recalls, "The person drawing my blood asked why I was crying. I told her I was hungry. It was Tuesday and I hadn't eaten since Sunday and that was a can of expired chicken and rice soup."

Before Theresa left Gundersen that day she had gift cards to buy food and gas plus a food voucher for Gundersen's cafeteria to ensure she wasn't going home hungry. No longer working because of her health, Theresa was worrying about financial issues in addition to her health. Getting help was possible because of a caring staff member who recognized Theresa's distress. Gundersen social worker Melinda Wickland stepped in to help Theresa find all the resources available to her, including Paula's Purse.

Paula's Purse is a Gundersen Medical Foundation fund to help patients with necessities like food, heat and transportation costs while going through cancer treatment.

"Philanthropy sustains Paula's Purse and Gundersen employees have always responded so generously," says Mandy Nogle, director of development for the Foundation. "Many employees chose to support Paula's Purse during the iGive Employee Giving Campaign. Programs like iGive, and special events like Rock That Purse, fueled by their generosity, are what make Paula's Purse possible."

Theresa had her last chemotherapy treatment in December and is hopeful for a good prognosis. While hope comes from world-class cancer care, Paula's Purse also offered Theresa hope, too, when she needed it most. Theresa says, "Paula's Purse is a wonderful program. I can't thank them enough."

To make a gift to Paula's Purse visit

Help raise funds for Paula's Purse!

Come to a special "Rock That Purse" event on Saturday, Feb. 2 at Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center in Onalaska. Doors open at 7 p.m. with raffle prizes, a silent auction and great live music. The Remainders and The Seven Ravens will perform to benefit Paula's Purse, a Gundersen Medical Foundation fund which helps support cancer patients with financial needs. All donations from the event go directly to patients.

"The Remainders are all about supporting charities in our area. We like to say it is 'rock with a purpose,'" explains Edwin Overholt, MD, a Gundersen otolaryngologist by day and The Remainder's bass player by night. The Remainders have done other Foundation fundraisers supporting Children's Miracle Network Hospitals® and Steppin' Out in Pink at Gundersen, too.

Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. Purchase your tickets at Festival Foods, Stoney Creek or Foundation offices, Level 3, Clinic in La Crosse.

For more information about Rock that Purse, visit

If you can't attend the event but would like to help fill Paula's Purse, you can:

  • Sign up to be a sponsor or donate at
  • Mail your donation to Gundersen Medical Foundation, 1836 South Ave.,
    La Crosse, WI 54601
    • Checks payable to Gundersen Medical Foundation
    • Indicate Paula's Purse and RTP in the check memo
  • Call Gundersen Medical Foundation at (608) 775-6600
Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System staff deliver great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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