Kelli Cundith and Kelli Hall, this year’s Champions of Hope Event chairs, are pictured with the late Sandi McCool (far right), former Champions of Hope chair, two years ago during the event’s preparation.| Submitted

Archived Story

Champion of hope

Published 2:21pm Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dadeville High School graduate and former Jacksons Gap resident Sandi Thurman McCool lost her seven-year battle to breast cancer back in November 2011, but her legacy lives on through the people whose hearts she touched.

The Southeast Alabama Medical Center Foundation in Dothan recently renamed its Champions of Hope event The Sandi McCool-Champions of Hope breast health event.

Valerie Barnes, SAMC Foundation executive director, said McCool was their very first champion during its inaugural year in 2008 and served as the first year spokesperson and was instrumental in starting the annual event.

“She was the inspiration around and behind the event. Her personality is very much a live in the event, and we will continue to honor her memory,” Barnes said. “Our hearts are all very heavy that Sandi is not going to be there with us this year, but she always wanted to offer hope to those who were still in their active battle with breast cancer and those who were continuing to marks the months and years they’ve survived. We wanted to continue to carry that legacy so it’s very appropriate to name it after her.”

Barnes said that even last year when McCool was struggling at the event, and they could see that her health was failing, she was still very hopeful.

“Even though she went to great lengths to get herself dressed and put makeup on, she put her best foot forward, because she felt a big obligation to continue to offer that hope,” Barnes said.

According to a SAM Foundation press release, Champions of Hope has raised more than $300,000 since its beginning and “proceeds have helped expand cancer services and programs offered by the Medical Center, including the Southeast Regional Health Screening Program, a community outreach initiative. The screening program utilizes a 45-foot mobile medical vehicle equipped with a digital mammography suite, lab and an education area to provide access to life-saving screening tests throughout a multi-county region.”

Mort Thurman, McCool’s brother, said he and her family were proud of what she was accomplishing through the event.

“Sandi was the youngest of the three of us, myself and our middle sister Marty. She was 36 years old when she died, and when my wife, my sister, mother and myself found out that the event was going to be named the Sandy McCool-Champions of Hope, it definitely touched us.”

He said his sister was always upbeat, before the diagnosis and even more after.


“She never let anyone get here down. No one was allowed to be down around her. She always had a smile on her face and she was always upbeat,” Thurman said. “It’s been hard on my mother and my sister and me and my wife, but all we can do is look back on it and know that she was not just a good person but a great friend to her friends, a great sister, a great aunt to her nieces and nephews, and she was always the kind of person you would want to be your friend.”

This year’s event will be held Saturday, Oct. 20, on the campus of Southeast Alabama Medical Center located at 1922 Fairview Avenue, Dothan, Ala.

Early registration fee is $25 for ages 11 and older and $10 for ages 10 and under. On the day of the event registration is $40 for ages 11 and older and $15 for ages 10 and under.

The event will include a 5K run, a 2-mile Spirit Walk, 25- and 45-mile cycling routes and the new Kid Fit Challenge. The days’ activities will also include live radio broadcasts, food, drinks, and an opportunity to visit Champions Plaza where area merchants and exclusive Champions of Hope merchandise will be available.

For more information contact the SAMC Foundation office at 334-673-4150 or visit