Volunteering at Hope Lodges

During college, I was actively involved in Relay For Life. My mother was a breast cancer survivor who took over leadership of our small town's Relay For Life committee and I too became very involved in the event. I acted as various roles on the committee and was also a team captain of a Relay For Life team. Having seen my mother's battle with cancer first-hand, I absolutely loved being a part of Relay For Life and was very passionate about what the American Cancer Society stood for.

35989441_10160444508030043_6967823880656257024_n.jpg
KC.JPG.jpg

Once I graduated college, I moved from my small town to Kansas City, a booming metro area. I made the move just a few short months after wrapping up our annual Relay For Life event and I found myself missing that involvement. Relay For Life was an amazing experience, but it was only something I focused on for a handful of months out of the year. I wondered if there were other volunteer opportunities with ACS that would allow me to be more involved throughout the non-Relay months of the year. I happened to be driving through downtown Kansas City one day when I saw the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge building and thought to myself "I wonder what that is".

Later that night, I looked at cancer.org to find out about Hope Lodge Kansas City and learned about the amazing value Hope Lodge provides to cancer patients 365 days a year. And very quickly, I was sold! I have been volunteering with Hope Lodge KC for the last two years and have loved every minute of it!

Let me share some background on American Cancer Society Hope Lodges.

Hope Lodges are ACS-funded facilities that provide free lodging for cancer patients and their caregivers who have to travel a long distance for treatment. In addition to providing free housing, they cultivate an atmosphere of support and empathy for patients and their families. Being around so many others who are going through a similar journey helps the residents feel encouragement and, ultimately, hope.

There are over 30 Hope Lodges throughout the US with an average of 44,000 patients and caregivers accommodated each year. That adds up to be about $36 million saved for those cancer patients and caregivers! But as with any sizable non-profit initiatives, it takes a village! It takes a lot of time, money, and work to keep these facilities up and running. There are many ways that individuals can assist a Hope Lodge, whether that's through volunteering, fundraising, or donations.

36188394_10160444508750043_2271655730962497536_n.jpg

If you prefer to fundraise, any Hope Lodge will gladly accept monetary gifts. Fundraising can be done outside of the facility, such as at work or in your friend circles and then you can give the money raised to Hope Lodge. However, I've also seen individuals who have held fundraising events inside the facility as well. At the Hope Lodge I volunteer at, someone hosted a bake sale in the actual building and invited his friends and family to come buy goods and take a tour of Hope Lodge while they were there! Hosting a fundraising event in the building is a great way for your friends and families to see, first-hand, what Hope Lodge is and what their donations support.

Aside from monetary donations, Hope Lodges also accept donated items as well. Contact your nearest Hope Lodge location to see what they are in particular need of. For example, the location I volunteer at is always in needs of paper goods like paper towels and toilet paper. Another example is bingo prizes, such as t-shirts, trinkets, and gift cards because volunteers at our Hope Lodge commonly host bingo nights with the guests. But this may differ from location to location, so check with your particular location to see what items are needed at your nearest Hope Lodge.

When it comes to volunteering, there are countless ways that you can volunteer at Hope Lodge. Helping with housework, cooking meals for guests, or hosting activities are just a few. In my two years volunteering, I have led a variety of activities, such as preparing dinners for guests, hosting root beer float nights, bingo games, yoga sessions, movie nights, and crafts activities. What I especially love about volunteering with Hope Lodge is that it gives you a first-hand glimpse into the cancer journeys of the guests and the powerful support system and hope that is cultivated there. And despite how tough and challenging a battle with cancer is, the guests always amaze me with their gratitude and thankfulness towards my volunteer work.

 

One memory that I hold particularly close to my heart is when I made and served a meal and a guest told me, "This is the best meal I've had in six months!" It meant so much to me to know that the meal I had prepared could bring a little bit of light and happiness in an otherwise dark and trying time in their life.

Aside from the humbling gratitude of the guests and the moving experiences I have encountered while volunteering, another meaningful aspect has been receiving an "Exceptional Volunteerism" award for the last two years because of my dedication to volunteering with Hope Lodge.

This volunteer work has hands down been one of the most impactful experiences of my life, as well as one that I am most proud of. Since moving to Kansas City, I've also been able to be involved in other ACS initiatives as well, such as Road to Recovery, the Cancer Action Network, and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. But there's something about Hope Lodge that resonates for me more than my other ACS experiences. It has provided me with first-hand experiences that just can't be matched.

Each night that I volunteer with Hope Lodge, I leave so much more humbled than when I entered. And each night, I also recount memories of my mother's journey with cancer and become more thankful that her battle was successful and that she is now six years cancer free.

36175887_10160444508460043_258454055083311104_n.jpg

So, if you're like me when I graduated college and you find yourself at a milestone in your life where you maybe have more time on your hands, or perhaps you are looking for more ways to get involved in ACS during the non-Relay months, I strongly encourage you to look into Hope Lodge.

I can attest that it will provide you some exceptionally moving experiences! But I should warn you that it may be emotionally difficult, just like Relay for Life or any other ACS event can be. But in your time at Hope Lodge, you will meet and learn about inspirational people and consequently will learn even more about yourself as well. And when you participate in future American Cancer Society fundraising events, like Relay For Life, those memories from Hope Lodge will remind you just why what you're doing is so important.

If you'd like to get involved with Hope Lodge either as a volunteer or through fundraising and donation efforts, click here (https://www.cancer.org/treatment/support-programs-and-services/patient-lodging/hope-lodge.html) to find the location nearest to you.

Written with love and hope,

Bree Walter

ACS Programs: NUPA Guidelines

The American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention

Most of us are aware that we should avoid tobacco products to reduce our lifetime risk of cancer. But for those of us who don’t smoke, or have quit, what else can we be doing to decrease our risk?

Health is undoubtedly one of the most talked about topics today. From diets to the shake weight, everyone is searching for the latest and greatest way to look good and feel even better. Well, what if I were to tell you that a healthy lifestyle is one of biggest ways to prevent cancer. In 2007, more than 84,000 new cancer diagnoses were due to obesity alone. However, studies have shown that physical activity reduces the risk of several cancers, including colon and breast cancer. The American Cancer Society has created the Nutrition and Physical Activity (NUPA) Guidelines, which focus on healthy lifestyle changes that we can make to reduce our lifetime risk of cancer. In fact, they state that for those who do not smoke, lifestyle factors such as body weight, diet, and physical activity are some of the most important cancer risk factors that can be changed.

Here is a summary of the ACS NUPA Guidelines:

Healthy Weight

  • Avoid excess weight gain

  • Losing even a small amount of weight has shown health benefits

  • Participate in regular exercise and limit high-calorie foods to maintain a healthy weight

Physical Activity

  • Adults: 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise each week

  • Children/Teens: At least 1 hours of moderate or vigorous intensity exercise each day, with vigorous activity at least 3 days per week

  • Limit sedentary behavior

Healthy Diet

  • Limit processed meat and red meat

  • 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables each day

  • Choose whole grains over refined grains

Limit Intake of Alcohol

  • No more than 1 drink per day for women

  • No more than 2 drinks per day for men

For access to the full set of guidelines, click here!

Turn the NUPA Guidelines into a game at your next Team Captain or club meeting, or use these facts at your Relay for Life event!

  • Create a Jeopardy or Family Feud game

  • Use a beach ball and write NUPA questions in the different areas of the beach ball. Pass it around the room, and whatever questions is closest to your right hand, you have to answer that question

  • Create a list of NUPA phrases or facts, and play “Pictionary Telephone”

Blog by Ashley Boone and Ross Nickles - North Region Campus Leadership Team

 

Campus FAQS: Road to Recovery

Last month we celebrated driver recruitment month, and we've all been hearing a lot about the American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery program. Driving patients to treatment is an incredible, life-saving opportunity; but what's it really like? The National Campus Leadership Team did Q&A's with real college drivers to get you the low down on time management, qualifications, and how this program works.

Question 1: Why is Road to Recovery important?

Road To Recovery Facebook Timeline Cover.jpg

Even the best treatment can’t work if a patient can’t get there. Family and friends may be able to help, but over the course of several months, they may not have the time or financial means to provide every ride. That’s why a successful transportation assistance program can be a tremendous, potentially life-saving asset to the community.

Question 2: What will I get out of this?

First and foremost, the fulfillment of knowing that you made treatment possible for a patient who really needs it and have truly become their hero. But if that’s not enough, volunteering with Roads looks fantastic on a resume or grad school application. Hours spent assisting and talking to patients can count as clinical experience for anyone looking to go into healthcare-related fields, or as general community service/volunteer positions for students looking to make an extra impressive impression.

Question 3: I'm a busy college kid; how would I even fit this into my schedule?

Road to Recovery understands that life can be busy; that’s why it’s amazing that this program is so flexible! There is no minimum time commitment, so you can drive patients as frequently as you’d like, at your convenience. Make a quick trip to drop a patient off in between classes, on your day off, or during holiday breaks. Appointments are even separated into two distinct segments, pickup and drop-off, so you can split driving duties with another Road driver for appointments when you’re short on time.

Question 4: How do I know if I am qualified?

Do you have access to a vehicle, have insurance, and possess a valid driver’s license with a good driving record? Then YES, you’re all set to start training!

Question 5: How much training is involved?

It’s super easy. You’ll watch a 15-minute new driver orientation video, and then a 45-minute interactive online training module. You’ll also submit the information necessary for a preliminary background check. The entire process takes about an hour, and can be done in the comfort of your dorm room while eating ramen.

Question 6: How can I get connected with patients?

When you sign up to drive, you’ll build out your online volunteer profile. The profile will ask you to input time and location preferences, so the system will know when you’re free and how far you’re willing to drive. When a patient calls the American Cancer Society needing ride assistance, staff will match the ride request to a local driver’s profile that matches the availability criteria. The driver will receive a ride opportunity notification, which they are free to accept or decline on a case-by-case basis. If accepted, the driver will receive the patient’s contact information, and will reach out to them for an appointment confirmation a few days before the scheduled drive. After the drive is completed, the driver will indicate that the ride was fulfilled on their volunteer profile!

Question 7: How should I interact with patients? I'm nervous!

No need to be nervous! Every patient is different, but the Road to Recovery online orientation and training will walk you through how to handle a variety of situations. Most patients are extremely friendly and appreciative, and excited to meet you! If you’re nervous or uncomfortable, you can always bring a friend to ride along.

Question 8: What should I do while my patient is in their appointment?

Again, this may be different for every patient and what type of treatment they are receiving. An appointment may last anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple hours, and some patients may welcome you to keep them company during treatment. But the vast majority will give you a call or text when they’re ready to be picked up, so you can head home for lunch or study at the nearest Starbucks in the meantime!

Question 9: I think I'm really interested and ready to volunteer! How can I get started?

You can get started here!

Still have more questions? Leave us your comments below, contact the National Campus Leadership Team here, or email Kelly O'Donnel at odonkel@umich.edu.

Road to Recovery

HOW THESE COLLEGE STUDENTS BECAME ROAD TO RECOVERY DRIVERS, AND YOU CAN TOO!

Every day thousands of cancer patients need a ride to treatment, but some may not have a way to get there. The American Cancer Society Road to Recovery program provides transportation to and from treatment for people with cancer who do not have a ride or are unable to drive themselves. Volunteer drivers donate their time and the use of their cars so that patients can receive the life-saving treatments they need.

Sogol Ashrafian, UCLA

There are so many programs that are so wonderful. But I chose Road to Recovery because it was the one that I qualified the most for while at UCLA. You can do it on all different days of the week so it fits in your schedule. I really liked that because as a college student your classes are so scattered. I really liked that flexibility. That way I could continue doing work with the American Cancer Society while not having a huge time burden. I could sit at Starbucks and study for the three four hours that it would take for their appointment, all the while knowing that I’m helping someone who really needs that ride. My grandmother is an ovarian cancer survivor, and I always grew up knowing what the American Cancer Society was. I grew up hearing cancer a lot. Essentially I was drawn in because of my family history, but what keeps me going is it is a community that is so united in hope. Talking about how you are feeling, what you are going through. It’s a very, very empowering community. You really can’t find it anywhere else. It’s a very unique opportunity to have a direct contact with the people you wanna help. 

Kelly O'Donnel, University of Michigan

I’ve experienced cancer through the lens of many different relationships in my life. My cousin passed away at the age of 11 from brain cancer, as did my great aunt. Throughout my years in high school, 3 of my friends and classmates were diagnosed. It has become a reality to me that cancer doesn’t discriminate against anyone, across all walks of life, and that everyone deserves the chance to fight. I volunteer with Road to Recovery to enable patients to access treatment and have their fighting chance. It has been one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had, to have patients share their stories with me and to become a part of their recovery story. The strength and appreciation of my patients and their families every time I complete a drive is incredible, and continues to give me hope that by lending a helping hand we can all work to create a world with more survivors and more birthdays.

Ready to sign up? You can now by clicking here!