“This was meant to be. It’s my first day of chemo, and I can see in your eyes that everything is going to be okay.”
As Mary-Ellen Alward presented a shimmering silver locket to the final chemotherapy patient she was visting that day, her grasp on the locket loosened as she dropped to one knee in front of the nervous patient.
“I hope this locket helps you to find strength, hope and inspiration. Know that you are surrounded by love and prayers. You will get through this. You are stronger than this.”
With tears in her eyes, Mary-Ellen embraced the woman before clasping the locket around the patient’s neck. It’s mid-day, and for the past hour and a half, Mary-Ellen and her mother Theresa have been visiting with the Chemotherapy patients at Chatham-Kent Health Alliance; a floor they have been all too familiar with. On November 11, 2015, Mary-Ellen’s father was diagnosed with cancer.
“We would have good days, and we would have absolutely terrible days,” says Mary-Ellen. “I think as hard as cancer is on a person, it’s just as hard on the family.” With each treatment her father received, Mary-Ellen realized she needed something to remind her that everything was going to be okay. Mary-Ellen, an Origami Owl consultant, quickly recognized that she had the ability to make herself a special locket with inspirational charms that she could wear and grasp whenever she needed extra strength. That locket, along with one she created for her mother, became the inspiration for her way of giving back.
With a goal of raising enough funds to purchase 25 lockets and keychains for the Chemotherapy department, Mary-Ellen created an Origami Owl product raffle fundraiser that she promoted to her friends. Within two weeks, word of her donation spread and she was sold out of raffle tickets. Some of the winners believed so deeply in her idea that they donated their product winnings back to Mary-Ellen so she could purchase more items for the patients. When Mary-Ellen contacted Origami Owl about having one locket donated for her fundraiser, she was brought to tears when an additional 25 lockets arrived in the mail.
“Origami Owl is a fantastic and generous company, and is always encouraging us to be a ‘Force for Good’. I was excited at the idea of receiving one free locket. Receiving a package of 25 was overwhelming.” says Mary-Ellen.
Lockets and keychains in hand, Mary-Ellen toured the Chemotherapy department last week as she shared stories of her father with patients and their families. “This is the chair he got here early for,” she said, laughing. “He wanted a window view and a direct view of the TV.”
Mary-Ellen also surprised the nursing staff with special lanyards that celebrate their hard work and compassion. “You all have the biggest hearts and provide such comfort to the patients. I don’t want to you think that you aren’t appreciated. You are a source of strength for families.”