20: Amy’s Treat

20: Amy’s Treat

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back

Amy’s Treat

Never get tired of doing little things for others. Sometimes, those little things occupy the biggest part of their hearts.

~Author Unknown

The phone vibrated and her name appeared on the screen. “They found something, a little blip,” she said, and then, trying to put me at ease, “Don’t worry. They’ll go in and zap it. It will be alright.” Eighteen months later, the cancer that had returned first as a blip and then with a vengeance ended her life.

Amy’s disease and prognosis were stunning for us all. This should not happen to a fit, kind, well-loved and respected individual who by her very nature made so many lives around her better.

I recognized true courage and was awed that, in spite of pain and fear, Amy’s humor and compassion remained. In the middle of a life interrupted, she continued to display a concern for others. She once said, before sitting down to a lovely meal in a waterfront cottage on a small island in Maine, as family and friends gathered to celebrate her forty-sixth birthday, “Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone with cancer could have a special day like this?” It was said at a time when being self-absorbed would have been both understood and excused. But that was not Amy. For those of us there, in the midst of all that beauty, in all the magic of a perfect day, what was not lost was the fact that Amy was terminally ill. I am certain that every one of us wondered whether this would be her last birthday. And yet, in that moment, Amy was not thinking of herself, nor of us, but of others who shared with her a diagnosis of cancer.

With her passing, Amy’s family and friends, along with her medical team at the Seacoast Cancer Center, contributed thoughts and ideas so that we could create a foundation that was most like the individual we hoped to honor. We wanted to fulfill her wish that “everyone with cancer could have a special day.”

We decided to call our non-profit “Amy’s Treat.” Everything fell rather smoothly into place. The arrival back in our lives of an attorney friend who specializes in non-profits, coupled with a whole lot of effort by a dedicated team of volunteers, saw to it that in March 2008, less than six months after Amy passed away, Amy’s Treat became a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit. Our mission is to provide solutions to the day-to-day difficulties of living with cancer and to offer unexpected “treats” to renew the spirit.

Since its inception, Amy’s Treat has remained an all-volunteer non-profit and has helped thousands of people whose lives have been altered by cancer. It has given out more than a million dollars’ worth of direct aid, services, and access to a “special day,” like box seats at a Red Sox game or money for a woman to purchase a new dress for her son’s wedding. We also grant bucket-list wishes, such as we did for one terminally ill young man who was able to speed around a NASCAR track in a race car just like he had watched so many of his racing heroes do.

Of course, what we really want is to have Amy back. This is the next best thing. To be able to turn one of the more heartbreaking events in a lifetime into something that not only honors the memory of a good person, but also makes a kinder cancer journey for others, has been a gift. Helping to launch this group and devoting hours of volunteering to assure its continued success has changed my life in ways that I never thought possible. To stand in the reflection of the indomitable spirit of someone facing one of the most frightening set of words one will ever hear — “You have cancer” — puts one’s own worries into perspective. It reminds me of all the ways I should be grateful.

Volunteering for Amy’s Treat has restored in me a once wavering faith in the thoughtfulness of humankind. We would not be successful without the generosity of so many people who will never meet the person or families that their checks and donations will ultimately benefit. It has humbled me to witness many kindhearted acts, such as receiving ten quarters taped to a card from the seven-year-old son of a woman whose car payment we had made, on which he had printed in neat penmanship: “Thank you for helping my mom. Hope this helps someone else.” Numerous Amy’s Treat recipients who have passed on and wanted to pay it forward named our non-profit as the recipient for their own memorial donations.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone with cancer could have a special day like this?” Amy said. Because she lived and because she died, many have. I think she would be pleased with how it all turned out.

~Lenore Rogers

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