Kits to Heart was founded in May 2020, about a year after I had finished my last cancer treatment. When I walked into my hospital room, I noticed a care package left on my bed. The nurse told me that it was from a former patient who was treated in the same unit one year prior and doing well again. Receiving this surprise gift during my lowest point gave me the push I needed to keep going and inspired me to pay the kindness forward. Giving joy gives me joy.
The pandemic prevention precautions that hospitals put in place—such as visitor restrictions—only exacerbated the loneliness and negative feelings that patients experience during treatments. It is especially meaningful to be able to surprise patients with a box full of love and tools to support them throughout their treatments.
What has been some feedback you have received from some of the recipients of the work you do?
The feedback we have been receiving from patients and their loved ones have been heartwarming. Recipients tell me they were moved to tears—whether due to the handmade origami that reminds them of their grandchildren, or the fact that these boxes come full of resources that they had not realized they needed, having been so consumed with appointments and scans. On the other side, our incredible volunteers also have expressed gratitude in being able to help the community, even remotely during the pandemic.
The transition from the pandemic, which has set the tone for how we operate—namely, limited to my family—will certainly be a challenge, as we figure out how best to engage our volunteers and welcome them to help with in-person deliveries and kit assembly opportunities. We are also starting to partner more closely with local organizations to hold in-person events to support the cancer community, so there will be much more strategic planning involved moving forward.
How can people in and around your community help with your mission?
I would encourage those interested to check out our remote and—hopefully soon—in-person service opportunities on our website at kitstoheart.org. We are also always looking to partner with more businesses who would be willing to contribute in-kind products or services for our recipients. And of course, simply making a donation will help make a meaningful difference for patients and their families.
What started as a deeply personal experience and project has grown to become so much bigger than myself. I am so grateful to be alive and for all the support that we have been receiving and hope we can maintain this momentum. Ultimately, I hope that Kits to Heart can change the conversations around cancer care to focus on the vital importance of caring for the whole person. That means we need to start caring better and find ways to address psychosocial needs of patients and their caregivers, in order to improve outcomes and quality of life.
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