CLEVELAND - Students from the Fostoria Junior and Senior High School Relay For Life team visited Hope Lodge in Cleveland Thursday to spread hope and holiday cheer.
The Hope Lodge is an American Cancer Society program that allows adult cancer patients and caregivers to stay for free while receiving hospital treatments away from home. The lodge opened in 1995 through the $2 million jump-start lead endowment gift from Jeanette Silber. She and her late husband Joseph have been long-time supporters of the cancer society.
"We wanted to provide a facility that is as 'homey' as possible," lodge assistant manager, Tracy Michael said.
PHOTO BY NICOLE WALBY
Members of the Next Generation Relay for Life visit Hope Lodge in Cleveland Thursday.
Cleveland's lodge is one of 31 across the country. It has 31 residential rooms with private bathrooms, living rooms, fully-equipped kitchen and dining room, outdoor gardens and patio, library, exercise room, free parking, computers, three laundry rooms and televisions in most common areas.
"The lodge is a hospitality house. The patients here become revitalized with the presence of students," Chris Williams, Hope Lodge director, said. "Some patients miss their families and get their spirits lifted with the visitors."
The student team, named Next Generation, visited to donate handmade hats and scarves and goodie bags for caregivers, provide a potluck lunch, and sing and play Christmas carols. Band students provided the music.
"The kids are just into doing this for Relay," teacher Anette Griffin said.
Griffin is the team captain. She started the student Relay team with three students; now there are more than 20 members.
"We started small and the numbers just keep growing," Griffin said. "Today we wanted to let the kids see where their money goes."
The lodge is funded completely through donor dollars.
"It is important for the kids to get a sense of empathy and see a human face and realize what these families are going through," Amy Baxter said. Baxter, also a Fostoria teacher, assists Griffin with the Relay team.
"Many students have been touched with cancer in their families, and some just want to give back to their community," Baxter said.
Hannah Nye, sophomore, joined Relay because her grandfather died of pancreatic cancer.
"I just want to help people that are going through the same thing," she said.
"This is a great cause," senior Ryan Lorah said. "The team gets hands-on experience with people and helps by showing kids who they are actually helping."
"For me it hits home," Lorah said. "My brother had been diagnosed and now he is 24 years old. I am glad to be doing this. It makes me feel that I am doing something good."
Students sat with patients while sharing lunch. One patient cried seeing kids wanting to do good and help.
Dallie Goens, of Indiana, is taking care of her husband who was diagnosed with prostate cancer this year.
"We are just starting out. He began chemo this past Tuesday," Goens said.
She and her husband have been married for more than 40 years and have two children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"I just want to say thanks at having a great time today," she said. "I really enjoyed myself."
At the end of the day everyone gathered around the fireplace and shared personal stories about why they joined Relay.
Blake Bush shared that his grandpa and six other members of his family had died due to cancer.
"I realized I couldn't stop it so I thought that at least I can try and help," Bush said.
Cristy Gao said she joined because she thinks it isn't fair that so many people must go through cancer treatments. Gao's goal was to just bring cheer and make everyone happy.
"I just want to say be thankful for what you have and do your best," said Deb Hilborn, income development representative for the East Central Division of the American Cancer Society and a staff partner for the student team. "It warms my heart seeing you here and you all are making a difference."