Brewer bank employees inspired by ‘amazing little girls’ raising money, helping father fight cancer

In this December 2010 photo, Abby Sargent, 7, holds up the family's billboard as she and her family waves to attract passing motorists so they can offer hot chocolate in front of her family's home. Abby and her sisters Jessica Sargent, Torri Openshaw and cousin Jaclyn Cyr of Holden started a hot chocolate concession there to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and for the medical treatment of their family friend Brock Blanchard, 3.
John Clarke Russ | BDN
In this December 2010 photo, Abby Sargent, 7, holds up the family's billboard as she and her family waves to attract passing motorists so they can offer hot chocolate in front of her family's home. Abby and her sisters Jessica Sargent, Torri Openshaw and cousin Jaclyn Cyr of Holden started a hot chocolate concession there to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and for the medical treatment of their family friend Brock Blanchard, 3.
Posted Jan. 09, 2014, at 12:57 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — The three young daughters of Mike Openshaw have worked together for years to raise funds to fight cancer to help their dad, who is battling a rare form of the disease. Now, their efforts have inspired others to act.

“Mike shared a story about his daughters, who for the last four years have raised thousands of dollars to fight cancer, after he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer,” said Yury Nabokov, Internet marketing manager for Machias Savings Bank, which opened a branch in Brewer in 2012.

Openshaw posted a thank you letter, which included the story about his daughter’s actions, on the Machias Savings Bank’s Facebook page for sponsoring its Light the Town photo contest, which earned his family a $150 gift certificate. Openshaw said the contest, which included daily voting, was a great distraction for his family, who know he is dying.

“It’s the worst of the worst to tell your daughters you are going to die, but on the other side is the amazing stories of people showing their support,” he said.

Openshaw mentioned numerous stories about people, including Hampden resident Danny Lafayette, local television show host Dan Cashman, his neighbors and even strangers helping to fight cancer. He ended with a story about his oldest daughter, Jessica.

“Last year, for Jessica’s birthday, she did a fundraiser. That is what she wanted for her birthday,” her dad said.

“They are amazing little girls,” Openshaw said. “They still take care of me. They know when I’m hurting, and they know how to help.”

Openshaw’s daughters Abby Sargent, 10, Jessica Sargent, 12, and Torri Openshaw, 11, along with some cousins, first gave back to the community in December 2010 when they raised $2,500 by handing out cocoa as people drove by their Christmas lights in exchange for donations to help out a local toddler with cystic fibrosis.

The following year, the girls, and sometimes cousins, neighbors and friends who assisted along the way, shifted their effort to the Relay for Life of Penobscot County after learning their dad was diagnosed with metastatic pheochromocytoma, a rare form of neuroendocrine cancer.

“These little girls, since they started fundraising, have raised over $20,000 giving away hot chocolate,” Openshaw said Wednesday.

In the letter to the bank, employees learned that “Mike and his family decided to donate their winnings to the Brewer CancerCare Center and Relay for Life,” Nabokov said. They found it so heartwarming that employees reached into their own pockets to support the family’s causes.

Mike’s “thank you” message was sent to the senior managers and employees of the bank, Nobokov said.

“The story about three young girls, who are raising money for the cause that is very near and dear to them inspired employees of the bank to organize a fundraiser to benefit the organizations, which Mike mentioned,” he said. “Employees, combined with the bank’s funds, raised $2,000.”

Abby, Jessica and Torri have been asked to present a $1,000 check to both the Lafayette Family Cancer Center of Brewer, where their father is receiving care, and the American Cancer Society at a special gathering at 2 p.m. Friday, at the Machias Savings Bank, 581 Wilson St.

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