COPLEY, Ohio — If you’ve been faced with a cancer diagnosis in your family, chances are an emotional journey will follow. This can include facing fears and focusing on faith. There can be setbacks, small victories and major milestones.
A group of volunteers, affiliated with a church in Copley, have found a remarkable way to give cancer patients hope and let them know they are not alone by providing them with bags full of gifts and caring messages.
“Stage 4” was founded by two former nurses, Pam Harris, of the Sharon Center, and Sherry Petryszyn, of North Royalton, who both faced battles with stage 4 cancer. Petryszyn, 64, died on last year.
Harris said she came up with the name to show that something good can come out of Stage 4.
“Cancer gave me accreditation to be able to speak about someone else’s life with cancer. We just think it’s a way to give back,” Harris said.
Group members gather at St. Luke’s Anglican Church and fill bags – made and donated by a woman in Florida – with blankets, water bottles, mints, word search books, mugs filled with tea, lemon and honey sticks and several other items. .
Blessing stones, painted by the children of the church, are also placed in the bags. The stones have works like “hope” and “prayers” on them.
Additionally, there are several notes attached with helpful tips for patients undergoing chemotherapy or other treatments.
Notes that say “for the chills” are attached to the covers. Other candy-related people include a tip Petryszyn liked to share: “Sherry said the mints and gummies helped calm her stomach” after the treatment.
Elinore Myers, 83, likes to write up to 10 different messages on the cards.
“At 83, it’s nice to know you can do something. They let me sit and write,” Myers said.
Over 200 bags have been delivered to date, primarily to Cleveland Clinic Akron General, Cleveland Clinic Medina Hospital and Summa Akron City Hospital.
The group has also received and honored requests to ship the bags to other parts of Ohio and the country.
“People are upset when they receive these bags. They just can’t believe someone is thinking of them,” said Jan Komjati, volunteer and two-time breast cancer survivor.
Harris said that while the group doesn’t usually meet the recipients of the bags, she received a stack of touching thank you cards.
One such card that stands out is of a woman from Sedona, Arizona who was sent a bag.
“She says, ‘Dear Step 4, you are all Earth Angels and I am so grateful to have received one of your wonderful and needed inspirational goodie bags – so many different things in the box that help me throughout this journey. It’s made my It’s so beneficial to be able to hear from a band that understands what I’m going through.'”
Petryszyn’s husband, Ted, volunteers for the group and is grateful that it helps keep his wife’s memory alive.
“I called her my wild Irish wife, I couldn’t keep up with her often,” he said.
Stage 4 is able to purchase supplies through money provided by the church and private donations. Several volunteers told News 5 they were eager to help as many people as possible and would welcome more donations.
“Everyone has a heart of gold here and there are beautiful people doing beautiful things,” said Ted Petryszyn.
For more information on Stage 4 ministry, visit their website.