The Chemo Bag Providing comfort and support to chemotherapy
Approximately 3,000 people locally are treated with chemotherapy for the first time every year. Recognizing just how traumatic the experience can be, a group of volunteers in the Lehigh Valley distribute hundreds of comfort bags to patients at seven local chemo infusion centers. The group, known as The CHEMO Bag, was started in 2013 by Leah Walia, a nurse who herself has gone through chemo treatment.
The CHEMO Bag is now a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with more than 40 volunteers and sponsors. It recently held its second annual fundraiser at the Northampton Country Club on William Penn Highway in Easton, with this year’s attendance of 140 more than double that of its inaugural 2017 year. Nearly $5,000 was raised to support the creation of more than 150 bags, according to the chair of the board of directors, Melissa Healy.
In addition to raffle prizes, silent auction items included one week in a condo in Myrtle Beach, which auctioned for $650; an original framed painting by local artist Doug Didyoung, a one-month Liven Up personal training package, and an IronPigs backpack package with four tickets, autographed ball, IronPig shirts and caps and more.
Approximately 1,100 bags are now distributed by the group annually, Healy said. The comfort bags are filled with items that are useful or that offset the side effects of the treatment, such as lap blankets and hand-knitted hats because chemo makes patients feel cold; mints and bottled water because chemo dries out lips and dehydrates; and hand and body lotion.
Entertainment was provided for dancing and listening by John Brown & the Hatchets, with award-winning trumpet player Clayton Reilly.
Healy called the event, which is the organization’s major fundraiser, a success; and she gave special thanks to the Northampton clubhouse grille and all the volunteers who contributed to the project. “If people want to support TCB they should like our Facebook page, and go to our website where we post our donation needs.”