Local News

Wednesday, Feb 17 2010 07:29 PM

Links for Life founder dies of pancreatic cancer at 64

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    Sharyn Woods

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI, Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

What started with a golf tournament in 1992 to raise money to pay for mammograms has turned into a nonprofit that has assisted thousands of women with issues related to breast cancer.

Sharyn Woods, founder and CEO of Links for Life, was an integral part of the nonprofit's success. Woods died Tuesday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 64.

Links for Life Executive Director Jennifer Henry said Woods was outgoing, compassionate and driven in helping women who were suffering from breast cancer and spreading awareness of the disease.

"She really listened to the survivors and what their goals were, what they needed here in the community," Henry said.

Sister-in-law Jeanne Ross said Woods was always upbeat and had a natural inclination to want to help others.

"She just had such a love for life," Ross said.

Links for Life first occupied a space in what was formerly a Glendale Federal Bank on California Avenue before moving to its current location on Chester Avenue, Henry said. Everyone on the staff worked entirely as volunteers for the first 10 years of the nonprofit's existence, and up to her death Woods was never paid.

"She was a volunteer CEO," Henry said. "You don't hear that often."

In addition to paying for mammograms, the nonprofit also pays for ultrasounds and biopsies, and even provides wigs for cancer patients who have lost their hair because of chemotherapy treatments.

Woods was born Feb. 26, 1945, and spent most of her life in Bakersfield, Ross said. She moved to Pismo Beach about two years ago.

She is survived by her mother, Lorraine Ross, brother John Ross, sons David and Robert Woods, and grandchildren Ryan and Brooke Woods, Ross said.

Her other passion in addition to Links for Life was golf, said Carmen Langfield, who also works at the nonprofit. Woods won the Kern County Women's Amateur Golf Championship in 1998.

Susan Escalante, office manager at Links for Life, said she knew Woods since they were both in kindergarten. They attended Bakersfield High School and reconnected at their 40th reunion.

That's when Woods convinced Escalante, who was living in Morro Bay at the time, to return to Bakersfield and work at Links for Life. Escalante didn't have a background in office work, but Woods convinced her to give it a shot and she's been working there ever since.

"I will miss her," Escalante said. "Everybody will. She's been an inspiration to so many people in Kern County through the services she helped provide."

A Celebration of Life will be held for Woods at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, at Wesley United Methodist Church, 1314 Oswell St.

Instead of flowers, the family is asking that donations be sent to Links For Life at 1706 Chester Ave., Suite. 200, Bakersfield, CA 93301.

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