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Friends of Mine biker group helps UPH — Marshalltown purchase LOCalizer machine

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO From left to right, Becky Dirks, UPH — Marshalltown Foundation Development Director; Shaybree Goshon, Clinical Manager Imaging Services; Sharon Mabie, Friends of Mine founder; and Sarah Vaverka, Mammography Technologist Lead.

All Sharon Mabie and her friends ever wanted to do was help people, and UnityPoint Health — Marshalltown has set them up to do that in a most impactful way.

Thanks to the generosity of her biker friends over many years, help will be available at UnityPoint Health — Marshalltown for those struggling with the prospect of breast cancer.

Eleven years ago, Mabie started her own version of what’s called a poker run. Hers is a motorcycle ride that goes bar-to-bar in Newton and Marshalltown before finishing with a five-card stud tournament. The Melbourne woman collects entry fees before the ride and gives half the pot to the winner of the card tournament.

It’s the other half of the pot, however, that’s making a real impact. The other half of the funds has always been given to various charities. Among those recipients was the Foundation at the hospital in Marshalltown. For years, funds went toward mammograms for women and men who couldn’t afford them. Mabie’s biker group, Friends of Mine, has a soft spot for those battling breast cancer, as the group has lost several friends to the disease.

Things have changed in recent years, though. Now, there are programs to help people afford mammograms, so the biker group’s contributions sat unused, allowing it to grow to a sum of roughly $30,000.

That’s when Development Director Becky Dirks approached Mabie about doing something else with the money. The goal became clear – to purchase a machine that’s called a LOCalizer.

It’s a complicated process to schedule patients for a breast cancer lump removal when two specialists must be on-site – a radiologist to mark the area and a surgeon to remove the area. With the localizer, patients have a miniature RFID tag that can be placed any day before surgery. This makes scheduling much easier. As a result, those struggling with the prospect of breast cancer get care in a quicker and more convenient way.

“Whatever helps a person get cancer out of their body quicker, I know that’s the right thing to do,” Mabie said. “But what I was truly impressed about was that UnityPoint asked me. I mean, they came and talked to me. Let’s be honest, not everybody would. They could have used the funds without letting me know, and I would have never been the wiser.”

Indeed, Mabie loved the idea, and her group did, too. In fact, they presented a huge check to Dirks at a recent bike night in Baxter.

“It was quite a night,” Dirks recalls. “That’s the biggest, friendliest group of bikers around, and I think they’re well aware they’re doing something very good to help those battling breast cancer.”

“She’s right,” Mabie said. “Bikers are probably the most giving people I’ve ever seen.”

Mabie acknowledges she doesn’t know exactly what the radiologist does with the LOCalizer, and she doesn’t need to.

“I just need to know what the end result is,” she said. “It’s not just the fact I was helping someone get a free mammogram previously, but now we might actually help save someone’s life because this is done quicker. Isn’t it so cool to think that you could be a part of doing something like that?

“If I never do anything else right in my life, at least I did something right there,” she said with a grin.

Mabie and her bikers plan to continue riding and giving.

“What I’d also like to see us do is support the needs for women and men either before or after breast cancer,” she says. “A lot of women need to have reconstruction, and some may need supplies or anything else related to breast cancer – we want them to use the money to do it.”

When Mabie looks back at 11 years’ worth of generosity from the Friends of Mine group, she hopes she’s leaving a legacy.

“I think, if anything, I hope it inspires my kids and grandkids to understand how important it is to give back,” she said.

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