Josephine Hicks can count on one hand the number of times she beat Ann Brewster Jones in Scrabble.
“Ann loved all things words,” Hicks said of her wife, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2010. “She did the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle every week and took her Scrabble travel kit everywhere with her.”
Jones played Scrabble the night she first felt the pain that signaled the start of her cancer journey in March 2006, opting to distract herself with the game rather than go to the emergency room, and she played each time she was hospitalized for surgeries or procedures when she battled the cancer and when it recurred in 2010.
Hicks, a 54-year-old civil litigation attorney and Myers Park resident, initially suggested organizing a golf tournament to support pancreatic cancer research. But Jones turned her down.
“She told me I could do that after she died,” Hicks said. “But she hated golf.”
Instead, Hicks turned to the game Jones loved.
“I wanted to do something in tribute to her,” Hicks said. “I started talking to some of her friends with whom she played Scrabble about doing something Scrabble related in her honor to raise money for cancer research.”
Hicks decided that she wanted the scope of her benefit to be wider than pancreatic cancer and to be more inclusive.
“Cancer, sadly, has touched so many lives,” Hicks said. “I wanted it to be meaningful to more people.”
She was impressed with Stand Up to Cancer, the nonprofit Katie Couric launched in 2008, because of its collaborative approach to cancer research. Hicks decided to organize a Scrabble fundraiser for Stand Up to Cancer and call it Spell the End of Cancer.
The First Spell the End of Cancer took place in November 2010. Participants pay an entry fee of $25 to play Scrabble and other word games.
“I wanted to accommodate serious Scrabble players and those who don’t want to play or are intimidated,” Hicks said.
Participants also can buy “mulligans,” such as a free look at the dictionary or the right to purchase a letter or place one’s word anywhere on the board, and there is a silent auction. People wishing to honor cancer survivors or pay tribute to loved ones will be able to purchase placards that read “I stand up for…” or sponsor a table on someone’s behalf.
Spell the End of Cancer has raised $40,000 so far and Hicks hopes to attract even more participants this year. Spell the End of Cancer will be March 5, 7-10 pm at Carolina Golf Club, 2415 Old Steele Creek Road.
“It feels like a great way to remember and honor Ann,” Hicks said. “And her love for Scrabble and words. And supporting an organization that is making great strides towards finding cures for cancer feels like a good way to honor her as well.”
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Spell the End of Cancer or to register or donate online, visit http://www.spelltheendofcancer.com or visit the Facebook page, Spell the End of Cancer.