Spending time in the hospital can be extremely difficult for those who have to undergo treatment. This is especially true for those who are spending time there during the holidays. With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on this year, hospitals have had to implement strict rules to protect staff and patients, some of which include not allowing family members to be there with their loved ones as they receive care.
To help give back to the community a Breslau woman decided three years ago to find a way to brighten the lives of people spending time in the Grand River Hospital Cancer Centre. Alissa Bingeman had many friends and family who were going through treatment at the hospital, and wanted not only to help them, but others who were going through the same thing. Her initiative eventually became what she now calls “cancer caddies,” a package of items delivered to those undergoing treatment in the hospital ward.
“Three years ago, when I first did it, I had a lot of friends and family members who were going through cancer treatments at Grand River Hospital. So I decided ‘let’s try and give back to the community.’ So, I went into my customer group – which I have over 300 members and followers, I guess you could say – and I went in there and posted [to see if anyone] wants to sponsor a cancer caddy,” said Bingeman. “Basically, what they were doing was they were giving me a $20 donation towards the purchase of one of these caddies. And then I was using my own commissions, as well as my own money.”
She says other moms and local businesses took up her call so she could start, creating 40 caddies in her first year. She has since grown that number each year giving out 80 caddies last year and 100 this year.
After buying the bags, volunteers fill them with a variety of items, from toiletries to teabags and notebooks, useful to those making hospital stays.
Bingeman notes everyone who helps her put the packages together is a local business from the area, which makes her especially happy that this is a community-driven event and fully supports her favourite line that it ‘truly takes a village.’
In addition to the outside help she receives to create the caddies, Bingeman says her children also help by taking their allowance money each year and putting it towards items from the dollar store.
“Every year they go to the dollar store with their allowance money, and they pick something out to put in the caddies. So, this year, I took them to the dollar store, and one of my one daughters, she picked out like packets of Kleenex, so we put Kleenex in every one of them. My son picked out puzzle books,so each caddy gets a puzzle book full of either word searches, sudoku, or word find or whatever. And then my youngest daughter she picked out the little stuffed elves, so little teddies, that goes in each of the kid caddies,” she added.
During this time of pandemic, Bingeman says it is especially important to give to these patients as they are unable to have family with them.
While she has hopes to continue to grow the initiative that has quickly become her baby in the future, she is looking to see what comes next as she gets ready to deliver the 100 caddies to the hospital this year.