Catherine Le was a student at Marina High School in Huntington Beach when she came up with an idea.
What if she and her fellow students compiled and delivered the little things that chemotherapy patients and their loved ones needed but didn’t have the time, money or energy to purchase? Perhaps the recovery process could be made a bit easier, she thought.
For Le, it was something she and her classmates could do to help. It was also a personal cause, after her own mother had been diagnosed with a form of thyroid cancer.
Under Le’s leadership, the Marina Key Club Chemo Care Project set out on a mission to put together “chemo care packages,” containing everyday products like lotion and hand sanitizer, as well as helpful recovery products like lemon drop candies and Queasy Pops.
And when she left Marina to attend Cal State Los Angeles, the work didn’t stop.
Melissa Soong took over as president of the Marina Key Club, and earlier this month — just in time for Thanksgiving — the club was able to donate 40 chemo care packages to patients at The Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation of Downey.
“We wanted to make patients feel more comfortable,” said Soong. “We know it must be really hard to sit in the hospital all day, especially during the holidays, so we wanted to make them smile and feel a little more at ease.”
Soong says more than 150 Marina Key Club members participated in several fundraisers to make this project possible.
“We did a lot of bake sales — a lot,” Soong chuckled. “We also partnered with local businesses, volunteered at the Surf City Marathon, received donations from various groups like the Huntington Beach Kiwanis Club and more. There were just so many generous people who would donate not only money, but their time too. We even had one parent who handmade scarves for every package.”
Soong described one unique fundraiser that sounded pretty neat, if you ask us. For Halloween, all club members were sent home with “donation bags” instead of candy bags, and they went trick-or-treating for donations. According to Soong, that fundraiser alone raised more than $700.
Soong said the experience was incredible and the patients were very grateful.
“One of the patients was so excited that he gave me a hug,” she said. “He asked more about the project and he said it was a really nice thing for us to do, and that made me feel really good.”