COLUMBIA - Boost Fest, hosted by Ellis Fischel Cancer Center employees, is returning to Logboat Brewing Company Thursday. The festival began in 2018, but took two years off from their typical in-person event in 2020 and 2021. 

The event raises money to buy Boost, a nutrition supplement drink made by Nestle, for Ellis Fischel cancer patients. The University of Missouri, which includes Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, has a contract with Nestle, so they're able to purchase Boost at a lower price. Each patient is given one free case of Boost a month, but some need even more.

"For some patients with throat cancer or mouth sores, that might be their sole source of nutrition," Ellis Fischel dietitian Elizabeth Freeman said. "They might be drinking about four to six cartons of Boost a day. One case only has 24 cartons."

Freeman said with supply chain issues that have been affecting the country over the past year, it's been even harder for her patients to find Boost at stores.

"For people to be able to get the supply from us is a huge benefit," Freeman said. "Some of our patients are with us five days a week getting treatment, so if we can just hand them that Boost while they're there, they are so appreciative of that."

Freeman helped start the event herself a few years ago along with some other employees.

"When I started this job about seven years ago, I realized a lot of patients were struggling to meet their nutritional needs," Freeman said. "Boost, Ensure, Carnation Instant Breakfast, any of those nutritious drinks are expensive for patients. I learned about a similar event for a cancer center in Jefferson City that raises money to buy Ensure, and I got to talking with other employees at Ellis Fischel who wanted to start something."

Freeman said this event educates others on the importance of nutrition when it comes to cancer treatment.

"They see how important nutrition is and what a huge role nutrition plays," Freeman said. "When patients are not eating and drinking well, they just don't do as well with their treatment. They may have to stop treatment early, or they may just not get treatment at all. Nutrition is a huge factor in their care. And last I saw, up to 90% of cancer patients could be malnourished, and that definitely increases risk of death."

Employees helped to revamp the event's social media presence this year to help get the word out. Some changes to the event this year include offering more kid-friendly activities, such as face-painting and balloon making. There will also be more silent auction items, with employees saying there's also more variety within those items than they've had before.

The event will go from 5 to 8 p.m., and will have music entertainment, Shakespeare's Pizza, Hotbox Cookies and a cornhole tournament. The fest is free to attend, but it costs $10 to participate in the cornhole tournament. Donations are also heavily encouraged. 

The employees hope to make close to $10,000 this year, which is a few thousand more than they've made in years past.

Along with their staff, the employees said it's the community that keeps this event going year after year.

"Everyone knows someone that's had cancer, so people just want to help in every aspect that they can," nurse supervisor Becca McGuire said. "It's just in our community; it could be your next door neighbor, it could be your boss, it could be your kid's teacher, so it's helpful to a variety of people."

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