PITTSBURGH — Cara Atkinson, founder and president of Club Hope Foundation, in Ellwood City, was one of the winners of the annual Pink Pamper “Woman of Courage” award given to a cancer survivor who has made a huge contribution to the western Pennsylvania cancer community.
This year they decided to honor all five of the nominees. The event was held last Friday at the Doubletree Hotel in Pittsburgh.
“It is humbling and exciting. They told me I received hundreds of votes,” Atkinson said. “I am so grateful to the Ellwood City community. I appreciate them every day and we could do nothing at Club Hope without them.”
Since 2008, Pittsburgh’s preeminent cancer-related nonprofit Pink Pamper has a mission to improve the lives and well-being of women impacted by the devastating and life-altering effects of a cancer diagnosis.
With Club Hope’s mission of bringing hope to cancer patients, they recently added three new treatment centers – UPMC Shuman Cancer Center, Butler Regional Cancer Center and AHN Cancer center in New Castle, bringing their total to 10 centers where they have permission to donate to patients and to post their “Flower Gardens of Hope” outside their facilities.
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During the COVID lockdown, patients could see these gardens from their windows or as they were driving by.
To donate or if one wishes to speak of a cancer patient in need of hope, call 724-657-7672, email email@example.com, or visit their Facebook page at Club Hope Foundation Inc.
Its office address is 237 Sixth St., Ellwood City, Pa., 16117, and its mailing address is 113 Collins Road, Ellwood City, Pa., 16117.
Atkinson did a basic drawing of a flower and children have colored hundreds of them and added messages of hope including “Don’t Give Up” and “Always Hope.”
At some facilities, they display the Golden Scars of Hope photos, by Forever Amber Photography, of survivors’ scars highlighted with gold. Patients who see the photos of Scars of Hope often say, “I’m going to do this and I’m doing it for me.”
Children with cancer receive a rocking horse with a picture of Gavin Myers on one side and the Club Hope logo on the other. The rocking horses are in memory of Gavin, the 1-year-old son of Rick and Shannon Myers who died of cancer in 2008.
Bags of hope containing items like gas cards, gift cards for meals, lotions, chap sticks and other comfort items are given to people going through treatment or recovery. Atkinson said donations of all items are always needed as are crossword and word search books to help them through the long hours of treatments.
Children and families, schools and churches, organizations and individual volunteers work together to bring messages of love, caring and hope to anyone with cancer.
Atkinson said that whatever your interest or skill level there is a volunteer opportunity for you.
“There is office work and you pretty much chose your hours. For those who like to craft, there are many opportunities as we like to give these all the time, and you can make lap robes and other useful items. If you have an idea for something please let me know,” she said. “Club Hope never stops, every holiday we have crafts for instance a turkey for Thanksgiving, made by children and families and church groups and club groups and we always need cards made by children.”
Club Hope was created on a solid foundation of family and community. Atkinson’s father, Nick, is the treasurer and mother, Kathy, is the office manager. Her husband, Jon, is totally involved, and sons, Jace, 8, and Cooper, 5, are frequent helpers as Atkinson delivers Bags of Hope and attends other events.
“Jace gets it as he sees people’s reactions and Cooper is getting it, too. I always tell them that they don’t have to go with me if they don’t want to, but they are always excited to go,” she said.
In 2008, Atkinson created Club Hope at Lincoln High School as a fundraiser to help people and their families in Ellwood City who are affected by cancer.
“Our high school club still remains and we are excited to have other school districts join us in our events and fundraisers,” she said.
Ten years later they have raised $70,000, and with the help of her husband, Club Hope has become a 501(c)3 nonprofit foundation, serving people in Lawrence, Beaver and Butler counties and in Erie, , and is hoping to expand to Allegheny and other counties.
“The Club Hope Foundation Inc. was established to help cancer patients and their families. Our goal is to spread hope and touch as many lives as possible,” Atkinson said.