One morning in late June, my team and I gathered at the City of Hope campus in Duarte, CA.
I'd been there many times before, but for everyone on the SmartyPits team, it was their first time visiting this amazing place.
As you might remember, City of Hope is the facility that saved my mom's life during her battle with breast cancer. It's also one of the leading centers for cancer (and diabetes) research in the world.
Back in May, we announced that we had partnered with City of Hope to donate $0.30 from every large stick sold to their breast cancer research program. My team knew this was at the heart of SmartyPits' story, but they hadn't necessarily experienced why this was more than a simple donation from our company.
It was an experience we will never forget--and today, I'd love to share a bit of our experience with you as well.
The mission of City of Hope is to transform the future of health care by turning science into a practical benefit, hope into reality.
We started the day by meeting with our awesome contact at City of Hope, Andrea, to hear about the plan for the day and to present our first donation check. I was so happy that my mom was able to join us as well.
Because of your purchases, we were able to donate $7800 with that first check back in June. As of September 1st, we're already at over $12,000 total raised for City of Hope! I can't wait to see where we are at the year mark. As you'll see, these funds make a tangible difference in the work CoH is doing.
Meeting with My Mom's Doctor
Our first stop was meeting with my mom's oncologist, the one who helped see her through her treatment plan and who still sees her today. It was such an incredible feeling to thank him personally and hear about the work he's currently doing on a cellular level to help isolate specific types of cancer.
Here's a picture of him, my mom, and my sons; it's a picture that never could have happened without his knowledge and care.
Visiting the Lab
One of the highlights of the visit was our visit to the main lab where they are doing some fascinating work in learning more about breast cancer. They're studying different types of cells, how they respond to cancer, how they respond to treatment, and how researchers can try to anticipate how breast cancer grows and changes.
It was especially fascinating to see all of the microscopes, monitors, and other equipment they use as they learn more and more every day about how to get the upper hand on breast cancer (and cancer in general).
Visiting the Wishing Trees
We spoked with a few other researchers and doctors throughout the day, had a wonderful lunch together, and spoke with a staff member who helps support families navigate some of the unanticipated but sometimes necessary aspects of cancer treatment (such as child care, couples counseling, grocery runs, and more).
Finally, we finished off the official day by visiting the Wishing Trees and writing our own wishes. These beautiful trees are covered with wishes--anyone who visits the campus can write and hang a wish.
Some of the wishes were actually messages--messages of hope at the beginning of treatment, messages of gratitude for a final treatment. Some documented hopes and dreams for a cancer-free world. Some just expressed missing a loved one very, very much. For me, this was one of the parts of the trip that touched my heart most deeply.
This message touched my heart...I mourned for the loss of someone I will never know.
Each of our team members hung a wish.
Our children wrote wishes too: "I wish everyone could heal."
"Help people stop breast cancer."
We took a little while longer exploring the grounds before heading back at the end of the day. City of Hope is such a truly hopeful place. Despite being a place where people go during the most difficult moments of their lives, it is a place full of life, inspiration, compassion, and empathy
I remember moments going to City of Hope during my mom's cancer when I was so scared about what was going on, and everything about the campus told me: "There are people here who care about what is happening. We will help you through this. You are not alone."
After we left, our team met briefly just to process what we had experienced together. The overwhelming response was: gratitude. We are so grateful that places like City of Hope exist. We are so grateful to be a part of something that is helping to bring hope into the world. And we are so grateful for each and every purchase that supports our ability to contribute to the work being done at City of Hope.
We all hope that someday soon we'll be in a world without cancer. But in the meantime, knowing there are people who care so deeply about human dignity and compassionate care gives us a tremendous amount of comfort and hope.
Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for the SmartyPits Newsletter for information, stories, and special offers!