Wintersville Elementary collecting ‘chemo care bags’ for cancer patients

WINTERSVILLE — Wintersville Elementary students are helping cancer patients find comfort during treatment by collecting items for the fifth-annual Chemo Care Bag project.

Second-grade students are contributing goods while the community is invited to donate and the items will be given to patients undergoing treatment at the Tony Teramana Cancer Center. The effort is spearheaded by teacher Sarah Hibbits, who is working with fellow teachers Kim Wadas and Kristi Sciarra, and she said it enables students to learn about the power of giving.

“The purpose of this project is to encourage kids to give back to the community. As adults, we want to teach our kids the importance of selflessness, empathy, kindness and compassion,” Hibbits commented. “These children are our future leaders and it is important to instill these traits at an early age. The most important thing we can teach our kids is how to love others.”

More than 650 chemo care bags have been contributed since the project’s inception, in addition to dozens of boxes of extra items plus treats for staff members at the facility. About 202 bags were filled last year with all but two going to the cancer center; however, the remainder were sent to a START mentor and Indian Creek staff member who were also undergoing treatment.

Goods have been collected since the beginning of February and will continue until the end of the month, after which the bags will be assembled and donated to the facility. Among the items being accepted are individually wrapped snacks, saltines, bottled water, Gatorade, gum, mints, hard candy, Tootsie Pops and Dum-Dums suckers, tuna or chicken lunch packs with crackers, Chapstick, lotion, Biotene or other dry mouth products, wet wipes, tissues, Sea Bond wristbands, reusable plastic cups or water bottles, hats or scarves, blankets, slipper socks, puzzle books and adult coloring books, notebooks, journals, pocket calendars, playing cards, pens and pencils and fun items such as puzzles, card games, Bibles, ear buds or stress balls.

Last year, Wadas and several volunteers also made more than 100 prayer squares that Hibbits had blessed by her church pastor, now Wadas hopes to complete 200 prayer squares so one is available in each bag. She is knitting items and help may be needed, so volunteers are to contact Hibbits if they would like to assist.

Now there’s a new addition and organizers are seeking the public’s help.

“This year, we have created an Amazon Wish List and we are looking for sponsors,” she added. “Each year, we have people who hear about our project and want to help. They could be former Teramana patients who received a bag and want to help us continue to spread some sunshine, former second-graders who participated in our project, friends, family members or school personnel.”

She said they might want to help but do not know how, and now they can donate $20 to sponsor a bag. Sponsors can choose to remain anonymous or can include a card with their donation which will be placed into the bag with a tag indicating the bag was sponsored by that individual. The bags will be donated to the cancer center in early March.

Hibbits quipped that students enjoy doing the project, even though many may be familiar with the word “cancer” but do not completely understand the disease.

However, a few past pupils had close family members or parents who passed away from cancer. She gathers students before beginning the project to discuss exactly what cancer is, how chemotherapy is used to treat it and how the chemo care bags help the patients.

Meanwhile, the topic is significant to her because her late mother inspired the project as a patient at the facility. The service learning project was formed to ensure they had the support they needed through their ordeal.

“We want them to know that even though it may seem like the gray skies may never go away, they are loved. I recently found a quote by Jane Lee Logan that stated, “Hang on when the winds are blowing; Storms are the birthplace of rainbows.” This needs to be the mantra of everyone who receives treatment at Teramana. Our goal is to give them a little bit of sunshine during their storm.”

Community members may drop off items to the school office between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays or send them to Wintersville Elementary School, in care of Second Grade, 100 Park Drive, Wintersville, Ohio, 43953. For information, contact the school at 740-264-1691 or email sarah.hibbits@iclsd.org.


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