Second Graders Make Care Packages for Chemotherapy Patients
Mrs. Sheriff is a second-grade teacher at Des Moines Christian School and is always on the lookout for meaningful service projects for her class. For the last year Mrs. Sheriff has sat by her mother Sheryl’s side while Sheryl received chemotherapy at the John Stoddard Cancer Center at UnityPoint Health - Des Moines. Mrs. Sheriff knows how hopeless the chemotherapy floor can feel. Because of her experience, she also had a lot of ideas to help patients feel more comfortable and brighten their day while receiving treatment.
The entire second grade joined Mrs. Sheriff’s class in making care packages for the chemotherapy patients. For weeks students worked on tying fleece blankets together. Parents brought in water bottles, tea that helps with nausea, fuzzy socks and slippers, ChapStick and lotion. They also included journals and pens, word searches and Sudoku puzzles to help pass the time.
Best of all, the children included hand-written notes of well wishes and encouragement. They chose their own scripture verses to include to remind these adult patients of God’s love.
Sheryl had an appointment on February 14 at John Stoddard Cancer Center at UnityPoint Health to receive recent results. Mrs. Sheriff decided it was the perfect day to deliver the packages. Along with her parents she carried the 17 packages to the chemotherapy floor on Valentine’s Day.
The nurses shared how the children’s thoughtfulness positively impacted patients that day. They had not anticipated the number of items that would be included in each package and they were especially surprised by the caring notes found inside.
Elizabeth Thanupakorn is as a chemotherapy infusion nurse at John Stoddard Cancer Center. She said, “One of my patients was especially touched by the drawings and repeatedly told me, ‘those words are from the Bible’ referring to the verses children wrote on the back of their pictures.
Everyone wants to feel loved and having cancer can be isolating for patients. Some of them do not have the strength to leave their house and pursue the social activities that they once enjoyed. Others are unable to because they are trying to protect themselves from infection. Having someone reach out to them and give them a gift is so much more than the contents inside, though that is also very important. They feel loved and that there is still goodness despite all of the pain and suffering.”
The following Monday morning, DMC kindergarten student Katelyn and her mom Jessica stopped by Mrs. Sheriff’s classroom. Katelyn shared that her grandpa (Jessica’s dad) is fighting cancer. He was actually receiving treatment on the day the packages were delivered and was so proud to be a DMC grandparent.
Mrs. Sherriff asked that any extra packages be given to first-time chemotherapy patients. Nurse Elizabeth said, “Someone's very first treatment is often overwhelming. Chemo affects people's entire bodies and often comes with many side effects. A gift at this time can help calm nerves and provide peace. It does not change what they are going to have to suffer through, but they are reminded that they are not suffering alone which means everything to them.”
When asked what is was like making gifts for cancer patients, second grader Nora said, “Well, it felt really good to be able to make stuff for people with cancer. They should be blessed with God’s love and know that everybody cares about them, and know that God loves them. When they get cancer, they don’t have to be scared, because God will be with them.”