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Letters to the Editors 1-9-14

  • Written by Rebecca Lanning

Christmas Without Cancer still going strong

Dear Editor:

Before the Christmas ornaments are tucked away in boxes and stored in crawl spaces, allow us at Christmas Without Cancer to share with you readers the magical blessings you — and our new partners — extended to those staring down cancer during these past months.

Your financial support over the last decade has helped hundreds of families and, miraculously, this year, your efforts caught the attention of our newest neighbor and partner, Binny’s Beverage Depot in Evergreen Park.

With the star power of Da Coach, Mike Ditka, Binny’s hosted a fundraising event and penned a check for $10,000.

The magnitude of such generosity is relative in nature to what you have done over the last 10 years. The fine people of Binny’s were the first to point that out when they approached us. Binny’s wasn’t attempting to grab the spotlight as much as stand shoulder to shoulder with a caring community — you.

We are partners and it showed in the totals raised to directly help families. A tally of 186 Ditka signatures on personal items generated another $4,650 while random walk-up gifts in the store brought in $483.

Every penny from this outpouring of support is earmarked directly for families in need. Support from you has brought steady growth and the privilege to help families throughout the year in Beverly, Morgan Park, Mount Greenwood, Oak Lawn and Evergreen Park.

The Christmas Without Cancer mission has always been brilliant in its simplicity: Identify need and provide gifts and basic necessities to Chicagoland families with members stricken with cancer, so as to allow the beauty of Christmas to shine through while family members find comfort in their devotion to one another.

Allow us to share with you the sights and sounds we volunteers encountered during our family visits this past season:

  • A young mother has found shelter in her parents’ Oak Lawn home while she struggles with radiation and chemotherapy. Her three pre-school children only see their mother’s smile under the collared scarf that covers her baldness. Your donations allowed our volunteers to enter the living room and place gift-wrapped boxes under the tree where there were none. We watched Christmas come alive through the eyes of the children as they tore away the pretty paper to embrace the simple toys that meant so much.
  • Elsewhere, a young adult son and daughter grieve. Their mother was diagnosed with brain cancer in October. She died Christmas Eve. All of their resources were spent on expensive oral chemotherapy medicines to alleviate discomfort. Your donations entitled Christmas Without Cancer to write a check for the children’s last wish — a dignified memorial service for their mother.
  • A young dad in his Hospice deathbed reading softly to his 4-year old daughter. His four-year battle with colon cancer was coming to a close.
  • A proud grandfather shaken at the recent loss of his daughter and our arrival with gifts for the missing mom’s children. When the youngest announced “we have an angel in heaven,” our throats tightened and our eyes welled with tears.

The concept from the first list of family names scribbled on my kitchen table in 2003 has flourished into Christmas Without Cancer. If not for your generosity, it would be a discarded scrap of paper. In 2013 we helped more families than ever before.

You write checks; drop off gift cards; attend our fundraisers; help us identify those in need; and share with us your humanity by giving to those faced with the prospects of death.

I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last 10 years and even prouder to know you are my neighbors, my friends and my fellow humanitarians.

Gerri Neylon and the Christmas Without Cancer team, Evergreen Park