Hearts United Against Cancer, a Mantua-based nonprofit, was started by Glassboro residents Beth Elwood and Patty Lee after the two were having a casual conversation and Elwood wanted to do something for all cancer patients.
“I couldn’t find a nonprofit that does this for patients,” Elwood said. “I wanted to be able to deliver something for any cancer patients regardless of the age or type of cancer. There’s not that many out there that exist.”
“It’s a way that I can show support to those who’ve gone through cancer and are still battling it,” Lee said. “I know the struggles they’re going through, and it’s a way to lift up their spirits and show them that there are people out there who care about them.”
Elwood said she had breast cancer 12 years ago and had a “strong support system of my family and friends,” and she wanted others to feel the same type of compassion.
Adult patients, for example, receive books, word searches or crossword puzzles, stationery to journal on, reusable water bottles or mugs, and toiletries. Kids are typically given stuffed animals, crafts, toys and “anything to keep their minds off of treatments.”
“They’re all personalized, so a person would put on hobbies, favorite colors and anything else like that,” Elwood said. “We had a boy, for example, who received a Spider-Man blanket, action figure, socks – you name it.”
A handwritten personalized note and bedding (blanket and pillow) are enclosed in all care packages.
The only qualification for someone to receive a package is if they’ve battled, or are battling, cancer. Age isn’t a factor in the decision.
Elwood added the nonprofit has delivered packages to patients at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia and Washington Township, Penn Medical Center in Philadelphia, Cooper M.D. Anderson Cancer Centers in Voorhees, Willingboro and Camden, and at Southern Oncology of Inspira Hospital in Vineland. Packages, she added, have been shipped throughout the country.
Camp No Worries, a summer camp for children battling cancer, in Tabernacle and pediatric hospitals along the East Coast receive homemade pillows.
Throughout any given month, Elwood said the organization is shipping out or hand-delivering roughly 400 packages.
“[People] are usually surprised because they won’t know that a family or loved one requested it,” Elwood said. “It brings them a lot of joy to know someone cares about them.”
She added it’s common for past recipients to become volunteers and put together baskets or assist in the fundraising events.
“We have one who received a bundle at Lourdes, and they’re coordinating a walk in September and donating a portion of the proceeds,” Elwood added.
The nonprofit is hosting a craft fair on Sept. 7, from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Pitman United Methodist Church, and, every spring, a gala is hosted at Auletto in Deptford.
“My favorite part is getting together and seeing an event and the community come together,” Lee said. “I like the camaraderie of the volunteers getting together to do this.”
For those wishing to donate blankets, note cards or pillows, they can be shipped to the nonprofit at P.O. Box 443, Sewell. Large item drop-offs can be coordinated by visiting www.HeartsUnitedAgainstCancer.org. Requests for bundles or volunteer opportunities can also be made by visiting the website.