LUMBERTON — Jenny Mulligan lost her 20-month battle with brain cancer last week, but her sister is continuing the war.
On Tuesday, Lumberon resident Maria Parker hopes to enlist more troops during a screening of “HOPE” — a documentary chronicling Parker’s 3,000-mile cross country bicycle ride to raise money for brain cancer research — at the Carolina Civic Center.
The event is designed to raise awareness about brain cancer and push Parker closer to her fund-raising benchmark of $1 million.
“We’re probably at $120,000 now, so we’ve got a long way to go,” she said. “If people want to support me and honor me, the best thing they can do is come to this film.”
According to Parker, the 50-minute documentary draws parallels between her grueling trek from California to Maryland as part of the annual Race Across America and her sister’s tumultuous ride through illness.
Parker finished the 3,002-mile race on June 23, 2013, in 11 days, 20 hours and 54 minutes. She was the first woman to cross the finish line and also set a course record. Parker accomplished this even though she was idled for a day after a traffic accident involving her support team.
The documentary was filmed several members of the support group that accompanied her during the race, and edited by Nathan Dowdy, a friend of the Parker family.
“The theme is that cancer is a struggle and Race Across America is a struggle, but if you persist, the battle is won,” she said.
Parker said that “HOPE” provides a vivid and accurate portrayal of her experience during the race, and that she was surprised by the quality of the production.
“I was blown away by the movie. It really captured the most important elements of what we’re trying to do and what we did,” she said. “The people we’ve screened it for already have had the same reaction. The reaction has been really positive and I think people in Lumberton will really, really enjoy it.”
Richard Sceiford, executive director for the Carolina Civic Center, has been friends with Parker since he moved to Lumberton in 2008.
“She’s an amazing person,” he said. “We’re thrilled to be able to contribute to her cause by hosting the event.”
The screening at the center, which seats 455 people, was coordinated by Carly Redfearn, who works alongside Parker with her 3,000 Miles to a Cure campaign.
“We hope that people will take away from this our belief that as a group, we can cure brain cancer,” she said. “All it’s going to take is people uniting around the cause to raise money and do research.”
Redfearn hopes that at least $1,000 will be raised during the event. The $20 admission includes hor d’oeuvres and beverages, including alcohol.
Parker said she’s received an outpouring of condolences since word got out about her sister’s passing on Thursday.
“There’s been a tidal wave of love and support from people who know and love her and even from strangers,” she said. “One of the gifts with cancer is that you have a long time to say goodbye. We knew from when she was diagnosed that this day was going to come.”
Though still in mourning, Parker plans to attend the screening and will participate in a Q&A session with members of the audience after the film.
“I’m happy to have to opportunity to share my sorrow and joy with so many people,” she said. “It will be another celebration of Jenny’s life. For me, the great thing is that she’ll still have an incredible impact on people’s lives through this movie.”
Mulligan, 52, lived in Charlotte with her husband Ray. They had five children.
Parker said that losing her sister has made her more determined than ever to help find a cure for brain cancer.
“Even though Jenny is dead, we’re going to win the battle against brain cancer,” she said, choking back tears. “In a sense she did win. She led an incredibly beautiful, giving life and I really believe she is without anxiety and pain now.”