Guest Columnist

Cedar Rapids nonprofit organization Gems of Hope marks 15 years

The Gems of Hope mission is 'to bring hope to cancer patients and their families.'

A volunteer delivers daffodils to a patient on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, at the Physicians' Clinic of Iowa Pavilion in C
A volunteer delivers daffodils to a patient on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, at the Physicians' Clinic of Iowa Pavilion in Cedar Rapids, part of the annual Gems of Hope "Hope Blooms" fundraiser. (Rob Clark/The Gazette)

On July 17, 2005, Beth Hammell, Cindy Sale and the late Sheila Harmon founded the Cedar Rapids-based cancer support organization, Gems of Hope. The volunteer organization was based on the simple idea of providing inspirational cards to cancer patients during their treatments. In the beginning, our connection to Gems was through our friendship and card-making which led to a deeper commitment and ongoing support of the Gems of Hope mission which is “to bring hope to cancer patients and their families.”

Much of Gems of Hope’s success depends on its volunteers. Gems has grown from the original group of a dozen founder’s friends making cards, to a group of nearly 400 men and women volunteers making and distributing an average of 650 Gifts of Hope each month to 13 cancer treatment centers and hospitals. The “Gems” attached to the cards include earrings, worry stones, bookmarks, and serenity circles. In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, we are now including handmade masks to help meet the needs of corridor cancer patients.

Throughout the last 15 years, and with outstanding support from both local hospitals and area cancer centers, as well as the corridor community, we have continued to grow our programs and services. Our kids’ programming has touched the lives of children and their parents navigating a cancer diagnosis. This outreach includes What About Us for elementary-age children of cancer patients, Cancer Really Sucks website for high school students, and Pages For Hope which donates cancer-related books to K-12 metro-area schools. Since 2014, our Youth Advisory Board has helped 64 metro-area high school students develop leadership skills and become more involved in our community as they help support the mission of Gems of Hope. Additionally, in the last 5 years, we have awarded a total of $85,750 in scholarships to 72 high school seniors affected by cancer.

The organization’s main fundraisers include the “Hope Blooms” daffodil campaign in the spring and the Gems of Hope Golf Benefit in the summer. Due to COVID-19, this year’s 10th anniversary Gems of Hope Golf Benefit has been postponed to June 26, 2021, at Wildcat Golf Course in Shellsburg, IA. We also appreciate all the individual donations and corporate sponsorships received during the year.

Many of our recipients keep their cards and gems as hopeful reminders of the support of many volunteers who create the Gifts of Hope. One of our scholarship recipients keeps her mom’s cards hanging from her rearview mirror. Other recipients make necklaces of the serenity circles they receive during treatment. Recipient Patty Freeman says, “It made chemo treatments easier when I went through the Gifts of Hope basket, choosing something pretty or meaningful. It was a light in the darkness.”

On the occasion of our 15th anniversary, we must again express our gratefulness to those members of our community, both individuals and businesses, who help us touch the lives of those cancer patients we serve. We would not be where we are today without the continued support of our loyal volunteers. Our plan is to continue bringing hope to cancer patients and their families for years to come.

Kristin Glockhoff, Kathie Cink and Carol Lagneaux have been involved with Gems of Hope since its inception 15 years ago as friends, volunteers and board members (past or present).

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