Small Household Items Add up to A lot of Love for Cancer Patients

World Cancer Day Feb 4 by George Ruger 

In the simplest sense, taken from the website- Bonnie Boxes are decorative boxes that contain essential items for individuals undergoing cancer treatments. Items fulfill physical, emotional, and psychosocial needs. The boxes and their contents are donated and assembled by volunteers and made with love. World Cancer Day 2016 is February 4th. From the website, "Whether you do something as large as running your own World Cancer Day campaign, or as simple as sharing our template messages amongst your networks, every action has an impact. Show the world that we can, I can… get involved in the fight against cancer." 

The concept of Bonnie Boxes started about two years ago by Cindy Snow.  Cindy's friend Bonnie Acker had and later died of breast cancer.  Cindy used to bring Bonnie items when she was in the hospital.  After Bonnie passed away, Cindy wanted to find a way to keep the tradition alive while helping other cancer patients.  The idea turned into what it is today.  The Bonnie Boxes are a comfort care box so the patients in the hospital are not so bored, alone, or hungry during their treatment in the hospital. Bonnie Boxes started in Wassaic New York, and currently there are 27 chapters across multiple states including Florida, Connecticut and Michigan.  Each chapter collects donations and assembles them into wrapped boxes to be delivered to area hospitals.  When a new chapter is created they receive a start-up kit from the organization.

Locally, Sharon Howard is the Chapter Leader for the Highland Chapter of Bonnie Boxes.  Sharon's mother passed away and she wanted an activity to get more involved with her kids and to do things to help other people.  She saw an article in the paper and contacted the organization.  Sharon works with a Kingston area hospital.  She says you have to find a hospital willing to accept the boxes.  Some hospitals decline to accept them for various reasons.  A few have expressed the possibility of spreading germs as why they are not interested in participating in the program. 

Angela Cacciola, Patrick Howard, Sharon Howard, Diane Townsend and Brittany Hanlon 

To receive donations, Sharon has left boxes where people can drop off items.  On a rotating basis, some places willing to accept donations have included the Plattekill Library and Hannafords.  Sharon is looking to have a box soon at the Allure Hair Salon in Highland.  She has also reached out to town halls as possible drop-off locations.  She uses facebook to get her message out, sharing information and drop off locations.  She also shares fundraising information and advertises the wrap and packs, where volunteers get together to sort and box up the donated items.  A handful of friends assist.  Some of the nurses from Kingston also contribute by meeting her half way to pick up the boxes to deliver to the hospital. 

Some of the items that are collected include travel sized unscented hand sanitizers and lotions, crossword puzzles, pens and notepads, snacks, ginger candies and teas, socks, knitted hats, and handmade items.  These can include encouraging letters and cards from adults or kids.  Some Girl Scout troops have put together handmade bracelets as one of their troop activities and donated them to the Bonnie Boxes. 

One of the rewarding reasons why Sharon does this is some of the patients send her letters saying thank you and telling her how the gifts have brightened their day.  It's a level of helping that anyone, even a child who feels compelled to do something to help another, can do! 

Headlining photo: Maeve Cadabal shows off her Bonnie box