By SABRINA HAYES/Montana State News

A friend’s death changed the course of Shirley Robinett’s life.

“I learned of the death of my friend, Susie Buxman, on May 14, 2011, the evening after one of my art shows. I was so moved by her death. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others who struggle with cancer. I wanted them to know that someone cared.”

Founded in the same year as her friend’s death, Shirley Robinett’s nonprofit organization Running Free From Cancer was born from her own art.

Robinett said, “I created my first piece ‘Running Free’ and began selling raffle tickets. Thus began the nonprofit organization, Running Free From Cancer.”

Over the past three years, Robinett has held fundraisers to support cancer centers in Bozeman and the rest of Montana. This year, for the first time, her event will be hosted by Sola Café from May 21 through July 23.

“This year we will have an art show/silent auction for the original pieces and also ‘one-time’ silent auction items offered only during the opening reception.” According to the event website, the opening reception will be held on the first day of the show from 6 to 8 p.m. The silent auction will continue until the close of the art show on July 23 with a closing reception and wine tasting at Sola Café.

Speaking about her organization’s past successes Robinett said, “In February 2012, over 30 artists and 30 businesses joined me for the first fundraiser. We raised over $3,000 for the Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center. This year’s goal is to raise $5,000 for the Bozeman Cancer Support Community.”

According to Robinett, the Cancer Support Community works to ensure all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community. They offer all of their programs free of charge.

Each year, the show is inspired by Robinett’s independent work. This year, she created a piece titled, “Take Courage.” As a result, the other participating artists produced work inspired by the theme of courage.

On the subject of the show’s artwork, Robinett said, “[The show] is invitation only and I select those whose art is gallery worthy.” Artists this year include Dana Aaberg, Terry Hall and DG House along with 11 others.

“I hope to raise the public awareness of benefits offered in the local community to support those who have been touched by cancer. I personally hope to gain the satisfaction of blessing others and I think the other artists want to see this as well,” said Robinett.

Sola Café owner, Tiffany Lach, said, “It’s important to know how to help the community.” According to her, this is one outlet she supports which community members can use to learn.

For more information on Running Free From Cancer and to view some of the artwork, visit their Facebook page. To read about the Cancer Support Community visit cancersupportmontana.org.

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