Feb. 8 2017 12:36 AM

Fundraiser helps Kristine Thatcher cover Medicare ‘donut hole’ gap

Medicare’s “donut hole” is an oddly playful name for a serious situation. Former BoarsHead Theatre artistic director Kristine Thatcher, in an extended battle with ovarian cancer, has found herself in the donut hole, a coverage gap where her drug costs have exceeded a $3,700 threshold, and she is personally responsible for more of the drugs’ costs until she meets Medicare’s out-of-pocket spending limit, which is about $5,000. While trying to come up with a fundraiser to help her offset these costs, Jerry Mattson found a bit of serendipity in the local theater calendar.

“The happy coincidence is that soon after Kristine reached the donut hole level of the insurance, Riverwalk was going to do a production of ‘Superior Donuts,’” he said.

A preview performance of “Superior Donuts” at Riverwalk Theatre benefits former BoarsHead Theatre artistic director Kristine Thatcher, who is battling ovarian cancer.
Courtesy photo

Riverwalk Theatre’s “Superior Donuts” opens Feb. 16, but the Kristine Thatcher Fund, headed by Mattson, is hosting a preview fundraiser Wednesday. Proceeds from the evening go toward Thatcher’s medical expenses.

Thatcher, an accomplished director and playwright, was laid off from BoarsHead Theatre shortly before it imploded in 2009. She launched the short-lived Stormfield Theatre after that, but that group folded when she was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer in 2012. Without full-time employment and the health insurance that comes with it, Thatcher struggled to pay medical bills for expensive procedures and multiple bouts of chemotherapy. Friends and theater colleagues banded together to launch the Kristine Thatcher Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Thatcher pay for her medical expenses.

“We managed to raise well over $30,000 since we established ourselves,” Mattson said. “It has worked thanks to the theater community around here. They’re very generous.”

Through Wednesday’s fundraiser and other donations, Mattson is hoping to raise $4,000 to help cover the donut hole in Thatcher’s coverage.

“Superior Donuts,” by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts, is about an aging donut shop owner who finds inspiration in a young but sometimes misguided new assistant. The provocative comedy explores the challenges of embracing the past and the redemptive power of friendship. Coincidentally, “Superior Donuts” is also the inspiration for a new TV sitcom of the same name. The show, which stars television veteran Judd Hirsch, debuted Monday on CBS.

Wednesday night’s fundraiser will also feature a pre-show reception and a postshow party with drinks and, of course, donuts. Local theater fans will recognize some friendly faces as they enter the lobby.

“Tony Caselli and Rob Roznowski are going to be our greeters in cop uniforms,” Mattson said. “They’re going to hand out a joke citations to our guests as they arrive, the requirement of which is to have a donut and/ or support the cause.”

Mattson is hoping for a big turnout — and good weather.

“An ice storm that night would not be good,” he said. “We have 247 seats. I’d like to fill most of them.”

“Superior Donuts
Preview fundraiser
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15
$25 Riverwalk Theatre
228 Museum Drive, Lansing
(800) 838-3006 brownpapertickets.com/event/2766287