Members of the community gathered Sunday afternoon at Reed Springs Baptist Church in Philadelphia for a chili benefit to support Ashley Lively, who was recently diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.
Event organizers moved the event to Sunday afternoon so more people could attend due to weather concerns.
Becky Duncil, Lively’s cousin, said that a friend of Lively, Mindy Wagner, came up with the idea for the event.
“People started getting here at 12:15 (p.m.),” Duncil said Sunday afternoon. “So we started the event 30 minutes early. It’s not just people coming from Loudon, Monroe and McMinn counties, but everybody has pitched in with some coming from Athens and Knoxville.”
Attendees received a bowl of chili with dessert and a drink for $5 with other fundraiser opportunities including a silent auction, a raffle for cakes and pies, T-shirt sales and half of all compact disc sales from the Jacobs family going toward Lively. The event raised $6,800 for the family.
“(Ashley) is super positive and isn’t scared of death,” Duncil said. “She’s a fighter. She’s going to fight like a girl and win. All proceeds will go directly to her. She’s currently treating the cancer with chemotherapy and takes four pills three times a week.”
As attendees finished eating, supporters were asked to go inside the church to listen to singing and make room for more people inside the fellowship hall.
“It’s absolutely amazing at the support that’s come in for her,” Angie Nichols, Ashley’s mother-in-law, said. “There’s going to be other upcoming benefits including a bike ride. We’re very thankful for the support and prayers for her. She has that positive attitude, and that means a lot.”
Madisonville resident Pia West, a friend of Duncil’s, said she came to support Ashley and her husband, Dalton.
“I met Ashley twice,” West said. “She’s just an amazing person. It doesn’t take long to notice that. Anything I can do to help her and to help her husband get through this, I’m willing to do.”
Ashley’s aunt, Margaret Shubert, collected money at the event.
“It’s amazing,” Shubert said. “It is just hard to put into words. The support she’s got has just been great. You don’t see a lot of kindness the way the world is today. She has just touched so many people. She’s such a brave young lady. That smile just melts your heart.”
Tellico Plains residents Kelly and Holly Scott said they attended because they are friends of Lively.
“It’s just what we should be doing,” Holly said. “We’re supposed to help each other, and this is how I know to do it. Ashley is a beautiful girl and has a beautiful smile.”
Greenback resident Brian Wilson said he attended because of working with Ashley’s husband.
“I work with Dalton and became acquainted through our work,” Wilson said. “We’re supposed to support one another as members of the community. It’s a great example of what the love of Christ should be.”
Lively said she was surprised to see so many people attend the event for her.
“The support is unreal,” Lively said. “I can’t believe how much support people have given. I’m still in shock from it.”
Since Lively has been unable to work, Dalton initially took on two jobs but decided to scale that back so he could spend the evenings with Ashley.
“It means a lot,” Dalton said about the community coming out to show support.
Lively said she focuses on taking one day at a time. “I try not to worry about it because God’s got my back,” she said.
Her mother, Marybelle Thompson, said everyone’s support has been wonderful.
“I’ve had support from out of state including people from California, New York and Houston just from people sharing and asking for prayer,” Lively said. “I don’t see it but they say, ‘You’re an inspiration; you’re my hero.’ They’re the ones who keep me going.”
Nina Thompson, Lively’s grandmother, said she couldn’t handle the news when she first heard about the diagnosis in December.
“Two days later, I decided to turn the radio on, and there was preaching on that I listened to and gospel singing all day,” Nina said.
When asked about the cost of treating cancer and having to meet other financial obligations at the same time, Lively admitted that moving forward has been a challenge.
“There’s been a lot of miracles happen,” Dalton said. “She’s a strong person. I know she’s not going to give up.”