BELDING, Mich. — Belding is, and always will be home for Mikayla Linebaugh. She spent nearly 20 years coaching softball and volleyball at Belding High School, when a loved one's cancer diagnosis changed everything.
"[My teams] used to raise about $1,200 dollars and send it away to a foundation called 'Big Pink', which is great but I always wondered where that money went," Linebaugh told FOX 17 News. "My dad was diagnosed in 2011 with leukemia, and it just made me think about where was that money going, when there's people in our community that need the help."
Linebaugh had a vision and quickly acted to launch the B-Foundation in June 2011, just days before her father passed away.
"It's B for Belding and we also like the word 'believe', so it kind of serves both purposes that we believe that we can do anything, we can believe in each other, we believe in a hope," she explained. "We thought maybe we could help a few families, and we've definitely definitely done that. We have raised over half a million dollars... It's a bittersweet thing, it means we've helped a ton of people, but it also means a lot of people have had cancer."
Cancer patients can apply to receive $1,000 dollars each calendar year to help ease the burdens of treatment.
The B-Foundation raises money by selling t-shirts (11,000 sold and counting!) sponsorships, community donations and an annual gala each Spring.
"All of our money stays local. That was one of the things that's near and dear to my heart, that I wanted it to stay here in Belding," she said. "We do gift cards for gas, we do gift cards for anything they want. We've helped families at Christmas when they didn't think they'd have money for gifts, we pay utility bills, one lady was confined to her home during treatment, she wanted a puppy."
Becky Mahar was diagnosed with a rare, incurable form of blood cancer four years ago and said she was grateful for the help.
"Our drugs went up to over $7,000 a month, I thought, I need some help, and so gas was my main thing," Mahar said. "Heartbreaking that I had to do that, but what a delight to have that blessing in our community."
Linebaugh said more than 270 families have been helped over the years.
"Sadly when something like [a cancer diagnosis] happens to a family, it tends to bring people together, and we get to witness that," explained Kristina Richmond. After losing her sister to cancer, she took in her nephew and now volunteers with the foundation. "We get to see the triumphs, the survivors. When everyone, this whole community comes together, it's an amazing thing to watch."
Linebaugh added it's another way keep her father's memory close.
"I know he's proud, I know that he's taught me to always give back and to help those in need, I can't imagine when I see him again what the reaction is going to be," she said. "It's kind of the way to keep him with me at all times, but really just knowing that we can help other people, in a time of such need is really what keeps me going."
As the FOX 17 and Lake Michigan Credit Union Pay it Forward Person of the Month, Linebaugh is receiving a $300 prize.