by Arielle Goldman
In the midst of the pandemic, the list of suffering people has grown exponentially, and many people have diverted their attention away from people suffering through cancer treatment and instead have focused on helping those fighting the coronavirus. For this reason, it is more important than ever that people, organizations, and clubs continue to spread kindness and raise money for cancer patients who are continuing to go through some of the worst times in their life, especially since the virus has isolated them from their loved ones because of their weakened immune systems. Looking for ways to help these cancer patients, the Youth Against Cancer club partnered with SOUL RYEDERS, a volunteer-driven charitable organization that works to empower those in the Westchester community who are affected by cancer. SOUL RYEDERS is an incredible organization that runs an eclectic range of activities that offer love and support to cancer patients. This past week, YAC was able to assist them in a “Spread the Love” blanket-making event, which turned out to be immensely moving and successful.
My sister, Eliza Goldman, and I coordinated the event with the help of Rachel Felenstein, the volunteer coordinator at SOUL RYEDERS. SOUL RYEDERS has been making the blankets for many years, and the process is very special for both the maker and receiver of the blanket. The blankets are put into gift baskets for cancer patients going through treatment. Treatment is such an emotionally and physically draining process, so SOUL RYEDERS works to brighten up those times with homemade gifts made by volunteers who truly care. The blanket is made by tying a patterned felt piece and a solid colored felt piece together; all the felt was ordered directly to our house where we cut it to the proper sizes. The blankets were later brought to Mr. Horowitz’s (a YAC club co-advisor’s) classroom where club members could pick up a set of solid and patterned felt.
On March 4th, those participating in the event virtually gathered to make the blankets and hear from an inspirational and incredible survivor, Heidi Kitlas. Heidi spoke about her painful and arduous experience of being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment while pregnant with her first child. She is now the executive director of SOUL RYEDERS, which is especially meaningful to her because of the tremendous amount of care and support brought to her by organizations similar to SOUL RYEDERS while she was going through her tough times. The YAC members were so moved by her story, and it helped make the act of creating the blanket for people going through what Heidi persevered through so much more special.
After Heidi spoke, Rachel Felenstein helped guide the club members through the blanket making while we chatted and listened to music. Kate Levy, a junior, excitedly claimed, “It was empowering to hear the guest speakers talk about the work they do and how grateful the cancer patients are when they receive a blanket. As I was making one, all I could think about was how happy this one selfless act will make someone feel. The blanket-making event was truly an amazing and inspirational opportunity.” The blankets were so much more than a craft project or an event to raise money; YAC members had the opportunity to do a selfless act of kindness. They truly felt the happiness of doing something they knew would make someone in pain smile. Mr. Hubbs and Mr. Horowitz, the YAC club advisors, happily stated that they were “incredibly moved by Heidi’s story” and are looking forward to “make something like this a yearly event.” Eliza Goldman, a junior member and event organizer, stated, “I was so happy with how the event turned out. We were all having so much fun doing an altruistic and meaningful activity, and Heidi’s story encouraged us all to try and always do as much as we can to help those going through treatment.”
The blankets are now being finished up and placed into care packages to “spread the love” to cancer patients. The Youth Against Cancer club is so proud of the work they have done making these blankets, and they look forward to continuing fighting cancer!