Fundraiser to benefit Sharon Rathbone

Sharon's Fight to feature John Wiggins, others
By Stina Sieg | Jan 23, 2012
Photo by: Donated photo Sharon Queen Rathbone, pictured above with her husband, Ken, battling a rare form of cancer. A benefit to help her with this fight is set for Saturday night at the HCC auditorium. Sharon's Fight will feature music from John Wiggins, McKayla Reece and The Julia Ann Band, as well as barbecue.

Sharon Queen Rathbone is fighting for her life, and she needs the whole county in her corner.

Since the now 47-year-old Haywood native was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2011, the community’s outpouring of support has been amazing, said Gloria Trull, Rathbone’s cousin. In the same breath, she stressed that Rathbone’s struggle is far from over. This Saturday, those who have not yet donated to Rathbone (or would like to do so again) will have their chance. Emotionally titled, Sharon’s Fight is a fundraising night of music and barbecue that will begin at Haywood Community College’s Charles M. Beall Auditorium at 4:30 p.m.

The show, which starts at 6 p.m., will feature songwriter John Wiggins, singer McKayla Reece and The Julia Ann Band, and will be just the latest in a string of popular events and drives in Rathbone’s honor.

“It’s just really been — it’s been phenomenal,” Trull said of the community response. “They’ve come together like something we’ve never seen.”

Since being diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a very rare liver cancer, Rathbone has received countless cards and been put on innumerable prayer lists. Her friends and family have also been able to raise about $20,000, a figure they hope grows much higher. In the beginning, this money was meant to go to TheraSphere (radioembolization), a treatment emphatically recommended by Rathbone’s doctors but denied by her health insurance company. In response, Duke University Hospital offered to give Rathbone the procedure for half its $150,000 price tag, if she could raise the $75,000. In the time it has taken to find funds, however, her body has become too weak for the operation.

But this heart-wrenching turn of events doesn’t mean that Rathbone needs help any less, Trull stressed. She still needs money to cover the medical costs her insurance won’t pay. Any money Rathbone can’t use will go straight into a fund to help other local people in her same situation. Trull is going through the paperwork to create the nonprofit, Sharon’s Fight, now.

“We have to stand up and say that we’re not going to allow this kind of thing to happen,” Trull said, not completely masking her frustration.

She hopes Saturday’s show will send that resounding message. Luckily, she’s got quite a few people to lend a hand.

Wiggins, an old high school classmate of Trull and Rathbone’s and now a famed songwriter, will be coming in from Nashville for the cause. He explained that helping out like this has always been part of the local character.

“We were all brought up here to take care of each other if we’re able, to do what you can,” he said.

It doesn’t matter if someone’s hungry or sick, he went on. Lending a helping hand is the human thing to do. That’s why this concert is special and so different from his others. Though he’ll do some of his hits (which range from “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” to “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking”) and put on a high-spirited show, he knows the night will not really be his, but Rathbone’s.

“It’s not about me at all,” he said. “It’s about her.”

At just 12 years old, Reece understands this, too. The powerhouse singer — and local middle school student — doesn’t know Rathbone personally but is used to performing for important causes. She estimates she does between five and eight benefits a year and is passionate about continuing the tradition.

“It gives back to people,” she said.

For her and the night’s other musicians, giving back means sharing what Reece likes to call their “gift.” Everyone has one, she explained, and she thinks people should use theirs to help others.

“And I think Haywood County should really come together for Miss Sharon and stand up and support her, because that’s what communities do,” Reece said. “And that’s what God tells us to do.”

Trull hopes that people listen, for the sake of her cousin and for everyone else who might get caught in such a frightening situation. She knows that this Saturday is not only about raising money but showing Rathbone how much she means to this community. Rathbone will try to make it to the show, but even if she’s not well enough, Trull is sure that a packed house would do wonders for her cousin’s spirit.

People should come “just to show your support and love,” Trull said. “That’s what she’s clinging to now.”

The doors open for Sharon’s Fight at 4:30 p.m., and the show starts at 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, at the HCC auditorium. As the auditorium only seats 550, Trull is hoping the show sells out before Saturday. Tickets, which include barbecue by local Tony Smith, may be purchased at Bethel Grocery, the Exxon station in downtown Waynesville (at the corner of Main and Pigeon streets), the Peak station in Maggie Valley (next to NASCAR RV Resorts at Stonebridge), the BP station in Canton (across from the post office) and the Shear Shack in Canton (112 Pisgah Dr.).

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