Omicron Chi Zeta Chapter, of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., a local alumnae chapter of an international, historically black Greek-lettered sorority, recently teamed with the all-youth nonprofit, the We Cancerve Movement Inc., to make Valentine’s Day cards for area children fighting cancer and other illnesses.
The card-making party was held at New Destiny Evangelistic Church in Edgewood a day ahead of World Cancer Day, which was Feb. 4, to raise awareness of the number of people fighting cancer.
Approximately 30 kids and adults attended the Feb. 3 event, coloring and cutting out Valentine-themed pages they glued to construction paper cards that included hand-written messages of encouragement inside. The group made 84 cards.
Children at area respite homes, including the Ronald McDonald House of Baltimore and Lifebridge Health’s Hackerman Patz’s house across from Sinai Hospital will receive the cards. These facilities provide low to no-cost lodging for families with children facing medical crisis and who need to remain in close proximity to their hospitals.
While the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Hospital Center in Bel Air does not offer pediatric cancer treatment services, children treated for other illnesses there will receive the hand-made cards.
“It was a lot of fun and a great way to get the community involved in honoring World Cancer Day. The cards are going to make so many kids happy,” Ashlee Brockwell, 13, a member of We Cancerve’s all-youth board of advisors, said.
The sorority’s local chapter president agreed.
“The event was ideal. It was uplifting and enjoyable for all. By youth making Valentine's Day cards for youth this was a win-win situation,” Sabrina White, president of Omicron Chi Zeta Chapter, said. “The youth shared their imagination and creativity in creating and designing the cards. Then, knowing the cards they produced will cheer up sick children was very rewarding for all who participated in this endeavor.”
White said seeing youth serve as mentors to other youth enhances self-esteem “leading to them becoming outstanding leaders in their community. Also supporting youth-led initiatives highlights the positive, confirming that other youth do serve their community, develop high academics and personal standards.”
There are about 26 active members in the Omicron Chi Zeta Chapter, which was chartered on April 15, 1994 in Harford County. The chapter’s youth auxiliaries sponsor programs throughout the year that focus on anti-bullying, self-esteem, mentoring and healthy eating and yoga.
The “Outstanding” Omicron Chi Zeta Chapter, as they call themselves, is a community conscious, action-oriented organization charged with Helping Other People to Excel, which is a global emphasis of the sorority.
On an international level, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. has more than 125,000 college-educated, dynamic, community service driven, diverse and professional women in its membership. The sorority was founded in 1920 at Howard University by five women. Famous Zetas include Lillian E. Fishburne, the first African-American woman to hold the rank of rear admiral in the U.S. Navy; acclaimed author Zora Neal Hurston; comedienne Sheryl Underwood; and singer and talk show host Syleena Johnson.
We Cancerve was established in 2012 to bring swift solutions to sick, homeless and foster children because happiness shouldn’t have to wait. Run by an all-youth board of advisors, who are under ages 18, We Cancerve created a pediatric patient assistance fund at Sinai to help offset costs associated with medical care for sick children, particularly at the pediatric hematology and oncology clinic.
Other projects geared for sick and hospitalized children in Books & Buddies, an initiative through Feb. 22 that pairs books with a stuffed animal matching the main character of the book; Beach in a Bucket, plastic beach buckets filled with summer and ocean-themed novelties to bring beach to hospitalized children all year round; and TransFUNers Kits, which couples new pillow cases with craft items to help children receiving infusions cover their IV poles with their artwork.
To date, We Cancerve has helped more than 4,000 homeless, sick and foster children, and has donated more than $10,000 in cash grants and $30,000 in in-kind donations.
“I felt proud to represent We Cancerve and all the kids that made them,” Brockwell, a seventh-grader at Patterson Mill Middle School, said about delivering the Valentine’s Day cards to Upper Chesapeake earlier this week. “I liked meeting the nurses and telling them about making the cards. They were happy.”
“I love being a board member and doing our service projects. I also like seeing our community get involved in our projects,” she said.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for the We Cancerve Pediatric Patient Fund at Sinai, a nonprofit hospital. They plan to reach $10,000 by September, National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. They’ve collected just shy of $6,000 to date.
The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 1,735,350 new cancer cases diagnosed and 609,640 cancer deaths in the United States in 2018 alone. Cancer is the second most common cause of death among children ages 1 to 14 years in the U.S., after accidents.
In 2018, an estimated 10,590 children in this age group will be diagnosed with cancer and 1,180 will die from it. Leukemia accounts for almost a third (29 percent) of all childhood cancers, followed by brain and other nervous system tumors (26 percent).