August in North Carolina can mean many things — back to school, sweltering heat, an end to a great summer — but for those who benefit from UNC Lineberger’s Comprehensive Cancer Support Program, it’s also a time of thanksgiving.

For the past nine years, Constellation Brands and Corona wholesalers and retailers across North Carolina have shown their support for the mission of the N.C. Cancer Hospital through the Corona Cares program, raising nearly $1.5 million from wholesalers, retailers and convenience stores.

Every August, Corona Cares donates 25 cents of every case of Corona Extra, Corona Light and Corona Premier sold and 100 percent of all donations from paper limes purchased at cash register checkouts to the N.C. Cancer Hospital and the Comprehensive Cancer Support Program, or CCSP, a multidisciplinary program dedicated to helping patients, caregivers and families with cancer treatment, recovery and survivorship.

For many North Carolinians, the cost of cancer is often two-fold — medical care taking the lion’s share, and supportive care often falling by the wayside. Initiatives like CCSP offer ways to help fill the gaps for patients who are trying to make ends meet.

Donald Rosenstein, MD

“In the cancer setting, if you’re fortunate enough to be insured, you get medications, surgery, your radiation covered to a certain degree, but even with insurance, the cost of cancer care is quite high,” said Donald Rosenstein, MD, director of the CCSP.

That’s where Corona Cares comes in. Ten years ago, Bill Marren, market manager at Constellation Brands, saw the national success of that Corona Cares program and wanted to bring something similar to North Carolina. Around the same time, Long Beverage’s CEO Rodney Long lost his wife, Mary Anne, to cancer, and he was inspired to give back to the community. Marren said retailers in every corner of the state get behind Corona Cares every year, and he is impressed with the support the wholesalers and retailers devote to the program.

With the funds raised through Corona Cares, Rosenstein and his team are able to offer support to North Carolinians who travel long distances for chemotherapy appointments or who struggle not only with the cost of radiation but also utility bills and rent payments each month.

“It makes it a little bit easier for patients to make it to their appointments, if they don’t have to choose between a copay and their rent,” Rosenstein said. “We get so many people from all corners of the state, and what we’re able to do for those with limited resources is augment our clinical services here at the hospital. We wouldn’t be able to run the CCSP as well without these funds.”

In addition to supporting CCSP at the N.C. Cancer Hospital, Rosenstein said Corona Cares also goes to fund outreach efforts throughout the state of North Carolina, including bringing cancer survivorship programs to rural areas and translating survivorship materials into Spanish for non-English speakers.

“The fact that we can serve anyone from North Carolina, regardless of need, is something I’m really proud of. The Corona Cares program helps us do that,” Rosenstein said.