When Noah McLemore’s aunt was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he and his mom wanted to do something to help her feel better.
They researched side effects of cancer treatment and learned that chemotherapy and radiation can make patients’ mouths and lips dry, cracked and prone to sores. Patients undergoing cancer treatment are also susceptible to chills, and may find it difficult to pass the time during treatments.
A water bottle, Chapstick, mints and lap blanket might make his aunt more comfortable, Noah thought, and a journal might help her pass the time. But, before he could put the package – what he refers to as “a cancer care bag” – together, Noah’s aunt died.
Knowing that another cancer patient could benefit from gifts he’d planned to give his aunt, the eighth-grader from Canfield decided to present the gifts to another cancer patient. He mentioned his plan to Audra Hatch, director of the middle school ministry at Greenford Christian Church, a program in which Noah participates, and Noah’s plan to help one patient grew into what Hatch calls “a mission trip at home” that will provide comfort to more than 100 cancer patients throughout the Mahoning Valley.
For nearly three months, Noah and eight other seventh-and eighth-grade students who participate in the middle school ministry solicited donations from parents, family, friends and members of their church to fill gift bags for cancer patients. They printed cards with an inspirational poem and Bible verse to offer recipients hope, consolation, courage, strength, comfort and most of all, God’s love. They enlisted children in the preschool ministry to make personalized greeting cards for each recipient and help from church volunteers Doreen Gustafson and Brianne Benyi to sew 40 tote bags, Hatch reports. The children also worked together to make cozy, no-sew lap blankets from acrylic fleece.
“We hoped to fill 30 to 40 bags,” Hatch says, but Noah and the other children were so committed they were able to complete 110 gift bags. Two of the bags were presented to cancer patients the children know – the father of one of the children and the grandmother of another. Then they delivered the other 108 bags to the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center at St. Elizabeth Health Center, a Humility of Mary Health Partners facility. From there, the bags will be distributed to newly diagnosed patients undergoing cancer treatment at the breast care center and other HMHP Cancer Centers throughout the Valley.
“They filled an entire room,” reports Juli Dulay, manager of the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center. “We were just overwhelmed by their thoughtfulness and generosity.”
“Noah just wanted to bless someone,” Hatch said. “This was a good opportunity for the kids to see beyond their own little world, to see how many opportunities there are to serve others and show the love we receive from God.”