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Blessing Bags bring joy to cancer patients

Fear Nothing, Bras for a Cause and other volunteers helped put "blessing bags" together for cancer patients this holiday season. Helping were (left to right) Barb Starwalt, Heidi VanBellehem, Jodi Waymoth, Amanda Stroud and Tara Faig.

In today’s world it’s rare to find someone who hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way.

A lot of people have had relatives or close friends who have it, while others are fighting a personal battle.

Some people choose to fight alone, but others don’t have that option.

The women of Fear Nothing, Bras for Cause and the ladies who came up with the idea of “blessing bags” came together to help bring the holiday spirit to those fighting cancer.

“We really wanted to brighten their holiday and bless them in some way,” said Jodi Waymoth, founder of Fear Nothing, a non-profit organization.

Doctors and nurses helped the group figure out the busiest day before Christmas, when patients were getting treatments before the holiday. That’s the day they delivered the bags and cards to the them.

Amanda Stroud came up with the idea after her mother passed away from breast cancer at the age of 48.

“I did it because of my mom. She was always helped by people she didn’t even know,” Stroud said. “People were always making dinners and giving her rides. Before she passed, she asked me to continue that.”

“We wanted to raise money for Fear Nothing. That was our goal for the whole month of November,” said Tara Flaig, of StudioT NutriFit. “Then we wanted to make blessing bags and fill them with donations from people in the community.”

Forty-three bags were purchased and sponsored by people throughout the county. The idea was to have people sponsor the bags, which would then be filled with money that had been raised by other fundraisers.

“We didn’t even ask for donations. People were just so generous that they offered to donate it themselves,” Stroud said. “We planned to use the extra money to fill the bags. In addition, we are going to donate the extra money we raised, which ended up being $2,000.”

With Bras for a Cause, they made a total of 55 bags. Next year, the goal is going to be 60 bags.

“This was our first year doing it so we didn’t know what to expect,” Stroud said.

“We all have the same goal,” said Barb Starwalt, of Jewett. “We want to share the spirit of helping.”

Starwalt’s daughter, LeAnn (Schroeder) Hardiek, passed away from breast cancer at the age of 31.

“I just hope, and LeAnn always hoped, people would look to help others because so many people did so much for her,” Starwalt said. “People need to be helped whether they are sick or it’s a poverty issue.”

Bras for a Cause started with LeAnn three years ago.

“With LeAnn’s request, we are keeping the money local,” said Heidi VanBellehem, event coordinator at Gabby Goat.

Since starting, Gabby Goat likes to have an event where they auction off decorated bras that local people have made. It is usually held the first Thursday of October.

This year they had 54 bras to auction off and raised $16,000.

“We gave $10,000 to Fear Nothing and we are using the other $6,000 to take lunches and gift bags to the local cancer center,” VanBellehem said.

“We have received over $20,000 from Bras for a Cause,” Waymoth said. “All of the money we raise stays in the community and goes to gift cards we buy for cancer patients.”

The gift cards are purchased for grocery and gasoline expenses. They cover the counties of Effingham, Jasper, Fayette, Cumberland, Shelby and Clay.

“If anyone knows somebody going through treatment in any of the counties we cover, they can go to our website -- -- and fill out a very short application. They can even request it on someone’s behalf,” Waymoth said. “After we receive the application, we mail them their gift cards.”

Waymoth and her husband started their non-profit organization after she was diagnosed with cancer. While battling two kinds of cancers, she saw how helpful people were being and wanted to continue that.

“When I was first diagnosed, my kids were one and three,” Waymoth said. “This community lifted us and carried us through it.”

The blessing bags were delivered to the Crossroads Cancer Center on December 14. 

“So much goodness comes out of tragedy,” Waymoth said. “It’s a blessing in your darkest hour.”

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