Programs for cancer patients and survivors of cancer got a big boost last week after the Karen Weidinger Foundation provided its largest donation to date to the SSM St. Joseph Foundation.
One of the recipients of the $40,000 grant is the Community Education Center at SSM Cancer Care. The center, located on the campus in Lake Saint Louis, provides numerous resources to those who have survived and those still battling cancer.
A volunteer-led 501(c)(3) breast cancer foundation serving St. Charles County, the Karen Weidinger Foundation (KWF) was established in 2004 to honor Karen Weidinger, a life-long St. Charles resident and graduate of Duchesne High School, who died of breast cancer that year.
Weidinger was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. Despite multiple treatments of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and medication, Weidinger’s breast cancer returned in the fall of 2003 and took her life in March 2004.
Staffed entirely by volunteers, the KWF is focused on breast cancer awareness and providing compassion for those currently undergoing breast cancer treatments in St. Charles and surrounding counties. Every dollar raised stays in the local community.
To date, the SSM St. Joseph Foundation has received $212,000 from the Karen Weidinger Foundation. “This is phenomenal if you keep in mind this is a small organization made up entirely of volunteers,” said Sherry Gerke, director of the SSM St. Joseph Foundation. “It is amazing that they have been able to do that much.”
The $40,000 grant will help fund cancer support groups, seminars, special events, exercise classes and other needs, such as genetic testing and risk assessment screenings for breast cancer patients at SSM St. Joseph Health Center in St. Charles and SSM St. Joseph Hospital West in Lake St. Louis. Both hospitals support community education centers for cancer care.
“The generosity of the Karen Weidinger Foundation helped SSM St. Joseph Health Center and SSM St. Joseph Hospital West touch the lives of more than 900 women and their families in 2010,” Gerke said. About 60 percent of those individuals were from the western portion of St. Charles County, she said.
Oncologists as well as nurses at the hospitals are involved at just about every level of the KWF, Gerke said, from volunteering for the foundation to serving on its board of directors. “These service providers have worked very hard to develop relationships since it was founded,” she said.
Donations from the KWF in 2010 were used to fund weight management and nutrition services, the Life After Breast Cancer series, head coverings and wigs, psychological and support counseling, and the Let’s Talk Woman to Woman event.
Chemotherapy can wreak havoc on cancer patients, causing them to gain weight and even changing their metabolism. Because of the grant, nutritionists at the hospital are able to meet one-on-one with patients at no charge.
In addition, funds provide patients with wellness activities, Gerke said, including Pilates, Tai Chi, Yoga and Zumba classes. The classes not only keep patients in shape but allow them to bond with others facing the same issues that they are facing.
The grant also helps offset costs for the Let’s Talk Woman to Woman event held annually at the hospitals to educate women on breast care, cancer prevention, early detection and treatment.
While this particular grant focuses on breast cancer, the cancer centers offer a host of services for all cancer patients and survivors, including support groups, psychological counseling and community education events.
Cindy Broder, a nurse clinician who runs the Community Education Center at St. Joseph Hospital West, said the grant will also help purchase educational and inspirational books for the center as well as massage therapy. “There are services we can provide that we would not be able to provide without it,” she said.