Thanks to COVID-19, cancer awareness has taken a back seat. The focus may have deviated, but the need for support remains higher than ever. Each year HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre assists approximately 6000 people within the community.
“We cannot forget the impact of cancer on lives and continue to fight to ensure there are awareness and tools available,” said Shawn Hlowatzki, President of the Board of Directors at HopeSpring. “We know, by 2023, statistics show that 1 in 2 will be diagnosed with cancer and that roughly 75% will beat their cancer.”
September is cancer awareness month, representing childhood cancer, ovarian, prostate, leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, gynecologic, thyroid and blood cancer. “They are all equally important, especially during the pandemic,” Hlowatzki says.
Back in March, when the region essentially shutdown, HopeSpring decided to increase its workforce rather than decrease it, as many other organizations did. Hlowatzki says they were able to adjust quickly to virtual programming, increasing participation by more than 25%.
Since the shutdown, the HopeSpring team has covered more than 4000 kilometres making personal deliveries of wigs, cloth masks and camisoles. “Often, our drop off is the only interaction a member has with the outside public,” says Hlowatzki. They arrive to find thank you notes placed in windows, he said, adding, “we often stop and talk through the screen door to provide encouragement and support.”
“Fundraising and soliciting for donations has become extremely competitive,” he said. “We are a small, local, independent organization that does not have that powerhouse to market in that way.”
My Giving Circle is offering a unique opportunity to support HopeSpring without making an out of pocket donation. Community members vote for a charity via their website. Voting is free and can be done once a week. The top voted non-profit in each category will receive $2000, second place will receive $1000.
“We want our community to know that regardless of how small the amount they are able to give - it is valued and important.” A $1 donation allows them to create an awareness poster for a doctor's office or supply a program guide to a member.
HopeSpring partners with a talk show based out of the UK called The Chemo Chat show. Providing candid conversations about what it’s like to live with cancer, the show reiterates a lesson we’ve learned from the pandemic; there are no borders when it comes to illness, including cancer.
“That is one of the positives from the pandemic,” says Hlowatzki, “it has given us the time to research and identify unique partnerships throughout Canada and the world.”
Their support services, whether it be yoga, a support group, or time with a Cancer Care Counsellor, have become lifelines during the already isolating experience of battling cancer. “Mental health issues are on the rise, and all our programs, in some way, help to ease stress, calm the mind, and reduce anxiety.”
They are currently seeking donations of cloth masks from the community, so they can continue offering them for free to those with cancer and their support systems. They do not receive funds from any level of government or the Canadian Cancer Society, as one would assume.
The HopeSpring team will likely be working remotely until early 2021. There are also a variety of remote volunteer opportunities available. “Volunteer if you can,” says Hlowatzki, “either in a remote volunteer position, committee or at the Board level.”
“Our facilitators are vital to ensuring programs continue - nutrition, yoga, meditation, peer support, art and music, caregiver support, children's programming. We love to hear community ideas and see how we can make them come to life.”
Learn more about their services, as well as how you can support residents battling cancer on their website.