Bess Cohn Humanitarian of Year: Margaret Parry

Meet Bottom Line Marketing's Margaret Parry

Margaret ParrySweetwater County, Wyoming, is a tough place to be diagnosed with cancer. With a population of about 50,000, and no good treatment facilities in the area, patients have to travel at least three hours each way to receive radiation and chemotherapy. It's the exact predicament that Margaret Parry, now the president of distributor firm Bottom Line Marketing LLC (asi/143585), found herself in when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992.

Just 39 at the time, Parry was forced to drive three hours each way to Salt Lake City to get treatment. Every week for a year, she'd make the trek and stay in a hotel in Salt Lake City, because she couldn't drive six hours in a day – especially after being worn down by radiation and chemotherapy. But, it was during one of those taxing trips that Parry came up with the idea of a lifetime. Understanding firsthand the difficult experience of dealing with cancer in Sweetwater County, Parry decided to begin a charitable effort to help people in the area with their treatments.

Cowboys Against Cancer was born in May 1993, with the goal of providing money to local cancer patients to help fund their trips out of the area. "I just desperately wanted to help people get to places where they could actually receive treatment," says Parry, who has been cancer-free since 1993.

The organization held its first fundraising event in October of 1994, and following its initial success, Cowboys Against Cancer provided $200 per patient who applied for a grant. Today, the charity gives out $3,000 to every patient in the area who fills out a very simple application. "We don't even ask them what they're going to do with the money," Parry says. "We give them the cash, knowing that they're going to use it for gas or hotels or food on the way to their treatments."

The annual fundraising gala, always held the first Saturday in November, has grown so much that last year's sold 850 tickets for the sit-down dinner. With volunteers, there were more than 1,000 people at the event, which raised about $475,000 dollars – an increase from $360,000 in 2010 and $300,000 in 2009. In all, Cowboys Against Cancer has raised more than $3 million since Parry had the idea 20 years ago to help other cancer-stricken locals in Sweetwater County. The annual event even attracts the Governor of Wyoming, as well as senators who travel from Washington, D.C., to attend. Last year, General Electric became a title sponsor of the event, as it is making a push in Wyoming to increase the number of women who receive mammograms.

"I talk to everybody I run into about this event all year long," Parry says. "Clients, people I meet in stores, everybody. And suppliers in this industry have been fantastic. They've donated so many products and items for our auction. It's been a tremendous outreach by so many people. I could never thank all of them enough."