Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

In honor of World Cancer Day on Feb. 4, law enforcement agencies across Western North Carolina launched a fundraising campaign to help combat a disease that directly affects up to 21.7 million people in the U.S. per year.

After the month long fundraiser, launched by Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland, more than 100 law enforcement officers in WNC raised more than $10,800 for the Cancer Care of WNC’s LoveLights fund.

Beginning Sunday, Feb 4, officers from Macon County Sheriff’s Office, Swain County Sheriff’s Office, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Sylva Police Department, Franklin Police Department, and Highlands Police Department joined together to raise money by having officers pay a fee for the privilege of growing a beard.

Generally, law enforcement agencies have a policy that requires officers to be clean shaven while on duty. For the fundraisers, officers could pay to have the policy waived and were encouraged to raise funds throughout the month. Female officers were also invited to participate by allowing them to pay the same $25 fee to be able to “dress down” or wear slacks and polos instead of their uniforms for the month.

Sheriff Holland was inspired by his seven-year-old nephew, who’s now in recovery after doctors discovered a brain tumor two years ago. Holland said a benevolence fund helped Elijah and his parents through a vulnerable time.

“That was such a blessing to our family that I knew there had to something like that in Western North Carolina,” he said.

One hundred percent of the proceeds raised during the fundraiser will be donated to the LifeLights Program, through Cancer Care of Western North Carolina. The LoveLights Program provides aid by paying electric bills, buying heating oil, providing local transportation if a patient does not have a way to get to an appointment, and supplying Wal-mart and Ingles gift cards for groceries and incidentals.

Cancer Care of Western North Carolina, a Mission Health Systems affiliate, has locations all across WNC, including in Franklin and Sylva. In 2017, 2,000 patients were served at Cancer Care of WNC’s Franklin office.

Sheriff Holland and Sheriff Hall said that with such a great response in the departments and with public support, they would like to make the fundraiser an annual event.