Lifting the spirit of cancer patients is the aim of a new foundation in Maple Ridge that gives gift cards and care packages to those suffering with the disease.
Jaime Dembowski started the foundation last year in partnership with her mother-in-law, Sherry Baumeister, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2016.
Baumeister’s symptoms included stomach pain and a feeling of bloating. An ultrasound performed in the summer of that year revealed a tumour in her stomach. It was only when doctors removed the tumour that they confirmed she also had ovarian cancer as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Dembowski gifted the foundation to her mother-in-law in February of last year and they started putting together care packages in April. Baumeister passed away on Aug. 1.
At first the women were giving out a gift card for coffee, a gingerale and some sucking candy, because Dembowski says, “when you are in chemotherapy, your mouth gets really dry.”
Now the packages have expanded to include a $10 or $20 gift card from Save On Foods for groceries, a $10 gift card for coffee either from Starbucks, Tim Hortons or McDonald’s, a ginger ale, sucking candy, women get earrings and a beanie, men get a beanie, there are handmade Mala bracelets, candles, bath bombs, t-shirts and $25 gift cards for gas when Dembowski has the money.
The gift bags are handed out at Abbotsford Regional Hospital Cancer Centre, where Baumeister received her treatment.
Dembowski goes to the clinic once a month to hand out packages. She makes sure she always has 20 packages to give away. Then she makes up to ten private bags per month when someone sends her a message asking for help. She gets their address and either ships the care package in a box or hand delivers it. She has received requests as far away as Kamloops and White Rock.
This past Christmas Dembowski raised enough money to put together 40 bags along with 40 stockings.
Each bag costs around $100.
Dembowski has had many different fundraisers including some on Facebook, garage sales and through sponsorships. She also sells headbands sourced from fabric cut-offs from her company Carbon Copies, an online mother and daughter boutique. In June she is planning a Bingo fundraiser.
And on July 12, in honour of Sherry’s birthday, she will be hosting a full-day birthday party at the Abbotsford hospital.
Dembowski is looking for any small businesses who would like donate or get involved.
“Every month I have small contracts with businesses and essentially I pay them a set amount and they make sure I get 20 of whatever their product is in the bags,” said Dembowski.
Or if they just want to donate, Dembowski will put their donation in the bag with their business cards.
Then she encourages the recipients to go on Facebook and thank the business owners themselves.
“I could not do this without everybody’s help. It really does take a community,” she said.
So far she given out more than 250 care packages.
“This was my mother-in-law and she and I were best, best friends. We did literally everything together, our nails together, Mexico trips, Las Vegas trips. We were just inseparable,” added Dembowski.
“So doing this in her honour is the greatest blessing aside from my children and my husband.”
To donate to Sherry’s Foundation Dembowski is accepting e-transfers to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to carboncopies.ca to donate through PayPal.