KITS TO HEART
Sonia Su is well-acquainted with the impact of paying it forward. While undergoing treatment for a diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in her mid-20s in 2019, Su found a care package sitting on her hospital bed, left by a former patient. The gift included an encouraging note, snacks and other small goodies that not only brightened Su’s hospital stay but also became the inspiration behind her budding nonprofit, Kits to Heart.
“That gift really gave me the energy and motivation to keep going,” says Su. “As soon as I saw that package, I was like, ‘OK, I’m doing this.’ I just thought it was such a wonderful idea, and, especially from a stranger, so thoughtful to give this to patients.”
The three-time cancer warrior believes care packages fill a gap for warriors when it comes to psychosocial care. Family and friends may be well-intentioned but are experiencing their own grief and stress. Additionally, hospitals may not have the resources to offer adequate care to sufficiently meet all of your psychosocial needs.
“Simply, we need to care better,” Su says. “Cancer at any age is full of anxiety, uncertainty and distress, and research shows that this does have significant repercussions. This lack of psychosocial care, which is recognized as a human right, can be pretty detrimental to overall well-being.”
Su was in her final semester of graduate school at Georgetown University when she decided to turn the passion project of providing care kits to cancer warriors into more than a hobby. Taking advantage of Georgetown’s resources, Su enrolled in entrepreneur courses that culminated in a pitch competition, Bark Tank, in the spring of 2020. Kits to Heart was one of eight finalists and, based on the promising feedback she received from judges, Su decided the cause was one worth pursuing. She incorporated Kits to Heart and received nonprofit certification upon graduating.
Drawing from her own experiences with cancer, Su thoughtfully curates the items included in Kits to Heart’s packages. A handmade card is always present, and other goodies include protein snacks, ginger chews, lip balm, tea, hand sanitizer, face masks or resource pamphlets. Su also emphasizes wellness and sustainability when possible.
“I really want to promote this idea of well-being for not only our bodies but also for our environment,” Su says. “I do tons of research into the products that I would feel safe putting in my own body, but also [into] companies that care about sustainability. It’s really about making sure I provide safe items.”
In less than a year and throughout a pandemic, the volunteer-based organization has managed to provide more than 500 of these mindful care kits to cancer warriors in at least eight different hospitals across the Baltimore and Washington D.C. metro areas so far, with plans to eventually
expand. The response from recipients has been resounding.
“Feedback has been really heartwarming,” says Su. “I have received many messages from patients who say that the kit has brought them to tears, which really makes what we do that much more meaningful. I just recently received one response saying that [a recipient] was so touched that she wants to pay it forward, so she donated to sponsor a kit for someone else. It’d be great to continue having such a response.”
Kits to Heart distributes care packages on a request basis and are not for sale. If you’d like to request a kit or sponsor a kit for someone else, visit kitstoheart.org.
For the younger warriors out there, Team Cure provides care packages put together by kids and teens. At age 12, Lindsey Pacios formed the nonprofit after raising funds to provide a care package for her friend undergoing treatment for osteosarcoma. Since 2016, Team Cure has sent more than 400 care packages to children and teenagers fighting cancer in the U.S., Canada, Australia and more. The box of goods is custom to a recipient’s interests and
can include anything from snacks to books to games to give young warriors an exciting surprise during difficult times.
To request a care package for a child or teen, visit teamcure.org/services.
Looking for a little more than a one-time gift box? Viver Joy has you covered throughout treatment with its subscription series of three unique offerings. Each package has a separate healing theme, color and content that builds upon the previous one, with an ultimate goal of rebalancing your mind and body. The boxes are curated by pharmaceutical executive and breast cancer warrior Vicki Barghout alongside integrative medicine practitioner Jodi Hutchinson with items to help restore your internal balance, including protein powder, herb growing kits, coloring books and tea.
To purchase a box or subscription for yourself or someone else,
HOPE + BEAUTY
It’s no secret that treatment can affect you outwardly just as much as inwardly. For those wanting to regain a sense of normalcy and engage in some good old-fashioned self-care, Hope + Beauty offers cancer warriors hand-selected “Chemo Companion Products” that are formulated with your situation in mind. Creator and surgical oncologist Dr. Shyamali Singhal has two decades worth of experience on the side effects treatment can prompt on a warrior, both physically and mentally. Feeling good is sometimes half the battle, which is why Hope + Beauty offers body care products for sensitive skin, hair and nails to treat yourself.
To purchase a box for yourself or someone else, visit shophopeandbeauty.com.
ROCK THE TREATMENT
If you want a care package specifically tailored to certain treatment experiences like chemotherapy or radiation, look no further than Rock the Treatment. These specialized gift baskets include items for people of all ages and genders based on input from cancer warriors, medical professionals and caregivers. A radiation package includes items to soothe, calm and cool irritated skin and energy-boosting snacks to lift you up. Opting for a chemotherapy package provides you with nausea reducers, nourishing bites and simple puzzles to keep your mind occupied.
To purchase a basket for yourself or someone else, visit rockthetreatment.com/shop.