Need for turkey donations carves Fry Out Cancer's 2020 role

Sarah Sole
ThisWeek group
Fry Out Cancer volunteers (from left) Erin Maiorana and Lisa Freedman, James Taylor of Columbus State Community College and volunteer Eliza Freedman wrap fried turkeys in preparation for pickup on Thanksgiving Day 2019 at Columbus State's Mitchell Hall.

Smiles, laughter and tears are some of the ways Jennifer Wilcoxon sees people react every fall when picking up Thanksgiving turkeys from the New Albany Food Pantry.  

“It’s just very heartwarming,” said Wilcoxon, executive director of the pantry.

And although the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic probably means hugs won’t be part of the exchange this year, it also has increased the need for donated turkeys – and a New Albany man's organization again stands ready to help.

This will be the fourth year the food pantry will receive Thanksgiving turkeys from Fry Out Cancer, Wilcoxon said, and the pantry anticipates the organization will provide twice the number of turkeys than in years past because the need is so great during the pandemic.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to help people enjoy the holiday maybe a little bit more,” she said.

The greater need is what motivated Fry Out Cancer founder Matt Freedman to move forward with his annual fundraiser.

Fry Out Cancer dates to 2014, when Freedman raised about $1,000 for Nationwide Children’s Hospital by frying and selling a bunch of birds. He was motivated to start the fundraiser when one of his daughters was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

Since then, Freedman's organization has been prepping turkeys annually for people to purchase for their Thanksgiving dinners, with proceeds being donated to cancer research.

The organization also allows people to donate the turkeys to families in need.

Freedman said he knew the pandemic would complicate his plans, but when he learned about how great the need was going to be at organizations he has worked with, including the food pantry, the YWCA Family Shelter and Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio's Faith Mission, he decided to press on.

Turkeys fry in pots for the annual Fry Out Cancer fundraiser on Thanksgiving Day 2019 outside Mitchell Hall at Columbus State Community College in downtown Columbus.

“The demand for these donated Thanksgiving turkeys was higher,” he said. “It became difficult to turn our backs on these organizations who were trying to do good.”

Freedman said more turkeys than ever are being slated for donation.

Columbus State Community College staff members and students will prep the turkeys at Mitchell Hall on the downtown Columbus campus, he said.

Of the 200 turkeys slated for the 2020 Fry Out Cancer fundraiser, 150 will go to such organizations as the New Albany Food Pantry, he said.

Last year, 72 were donated to families in need, Freedman said.

“We just want to do everything we can to use our turkeys to feed people in need on Thanksgiving,” he said.

The 50 remaining turkeys will be fried Thanksgiving morning at Temple Beth Shalom in New Albany and will be for sale to families, Freedman said. They first will be offered as preorders for anyone who has purchased in the past, he said.  

“I envision selling out those turkeys in the presale,” he said.

Anyone who wants to sponsor a turkey for donation should go to fryoutcancer.org, he said. All money from purchased turkeys goes to the Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, he said.

Last year, Fry Out Cancer raised $30,000 for the James, Freedman said, bringing the cumulative total to more than $83,000 since the donations began. This year, he hopes to again donate $30,000 to the hospital for research related to ovarian cancer and pediatric brain cancer.

Freedman said a lack of fundraising for the James during the pandemic for the James also made him want to help the hospital this year.

Erika Beasley, who is a Fry Out Cancer board member and associate director of development for the James, said state and grant funding has been cut “pretty drastically” because of the pandemic.

The pandemic also has caused many organizations to cancel fundraising events for the James because of the difficulty of adhering to government health mandates, she said.

About 70% of community event partners are not holding such events this year, Beasley said.

“Those dollars that have always meant so much to use mean even more now,” she said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah