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Women's History Month: Local organization has raised nearly $1 million to help families battling cancer

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Posted at 7:07 AM, Mar 29, 2021

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - In nearly seven years, Jodi Newland has raised just under $1 million to help give financial support to people battling cancer.

It all started with a final conversation about regret nearly 20 years ago.

"I asked Daniel, 'What is your life's regret? Do you have a life's regret?' He instantly said 'I lived my life for me and I didn't realize there were people around me that needed help,'" Newland recalled to News 3.

Daniel is Daniel Burns, Newland's first husband, high school sweetheart and the father of her son, Jonathan.

Burns was diagnosed with colon cancer at just 28 years old and died March 12, 2005 at just 33.

In his honor, Newland, a former teacher who owns Sweetwater Cuisine in Virginia Beach, founded Daniel's Grace in 2014.

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Jodi Newland with her son, Jonathan. The two founded Daniel's Grace in honor of Jonathan's father who passed away in 2005 from colon cancer. The organization helps financially support people fighting cancer.

"He knew that he would never be able to repay those who had helped him so generously so Jonathan and I jumped in and said 'you might not be able to do that but we can help you do that,'" she said.

The non-profit, which operates in Virginia and Mississippi, provides financial assistance to local families who have a loved one battling cancer.

According to the foundation's website, "We pay rent, mortgage payments, car payments, utilities, insurance premiums, and COBRA premiums, just to name a few. We also have a college scholarship program for students who have been directly affected by cancer."

Of the near-million dollars brought in through fundraisers over the years, Newland says roughly $275,000 has gone to help people with rent and mortgage payments alone.

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Fundraisers have helped Daniel's Grace raise nearly $1 million since its founding in 2014.

She has two fundraisers in the works for May -- Give Local 757 on May 11 and Concert for Cancer on May 22 at the Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center on Wesleyan Drive in Virginia Beach.

"I think that Daniel is jumping for joy. I do believe he looks down and sees what's happening and he's clapping and cheering us on for making a difference for others," said Newland.

March has a lot of meaning for Newland and Burns' family; not only did he pass away on March 12, but Burns' birthday was March 29.

March is also Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and Newland says Burns' story should serve as a lesson to others that although he was diagnosed at a young age, his death may have been preventable.

"Daniel ignored his body and the symptoms he was having for almost 12 months," she said. "Who at 28 thinks it's going to be a complete blockage in your colon?"

March being Women's History Month, Newland has advice for girls and women who might want to start their own business or organization to help the community.

"My sister calls me a wild, galloping stallion," Newland told News 3 with a laugh. "She said 'you have all of these ideas and you jump in with both feet and make it happen' and that's just what it takes. You're not always going to succeed and that's okay."

Outside of fundraisers, Newland says Daniel's Grace is always taking donations on its website and is always in need of volunteers. Those in need can also request assistance on the website.