Blog by Lorraine Lewis, co-founder of The Lewis Foundation.
Why do we support adults diagnosed with cancer? The reality of what life was like for a cancer patient and their family never really hit home to us, until my family was in that position ourselves. When my mother in law was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, completely out of the blue our world changed in an instant. It was about endless hospital visits, treatments and appointments. A true appreciation and understanding of cancer and caring for someone with cancer became even more apparent for myself and my husband Lee when my father in law passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack.
Overnight we were the ones there all the time in hospitals sometimes for days, weeks and months on end. That is when we witnessed first hand what people were facing. The isolation, loneliness, fear, worry, lack of money due to not being able to work and the boredom. We realised it was something that was being experienced universally no matter who you were or what your background was. It just seemed like there was something missing, that something could be done to create moments of joy, provide some distraction and show some love to people who were in this situation.
At the same time as my mother in law had cancer, we had a child family member who had been diagnosed with cancer. We could see the stark difference between the environment on a children's ward compared to an adults. There were lots of gifts, visits and entertainment. Things to boost their morale, show them they were cared for and that they were not forgotten. The adults did not have any of this. Lee and I wanted to replicate what we saw in the children's ward for adults because we knew it would make a difference to how people felt. Initially, we would test this when my mother in law was in hospital (which was frequent) by going to the hospital shop and buying people things. Simple things - magazines, sweets and toiletries. We would go around the ward and hand them out. We saw something as simple as giving a gift and your time, with nothing expected in return, really brightens someone's day. It took their mind off what they were going through. Once she was in remission in 2015, we decided this was something we wanted to do more officially as we could see the difference it was making.
This was what led us to start The Lewis Foundation. Lewis is our family name. Initially trialling this concept of gift giving on Talbot Butler Ward, the inpatient adult cancer ward at Northampton General Hospital. We had 8 different gifts in gift packages such as magazines, pocket radios and overnight packs. We were providing 80 gifts per month to the ward, working with family and friends to fundraise. We were also asking companies to donate products for the packs.
The hardest part at first was persuading people in the hospital that the gifts were free. They could not understand why we would want to do this for a stranger. However, over time and with the support of the hospital people realised it was a sincere act of kindness. Patients started to spread the word about what we were doing. This led to more support with donations and help from those we had helped. A ripple effect really was created from the word of mouth and patients and hospital staff. This is how over a 7 year period, we have grown to now supporting 17 hospitals across the Midlands. Patients now have a choice of 29 different gifts to pick from tailored to meet different needs from comfort, entertainment and support packs. Shaped over the years from patient feedback. On average we give away 2000 packs per month.
How it works in hospitals: Hospitals order the number and types of packs they would like for the ward on a weekly, fortnightly and monthly basis. They are delivered to the hospital and stored on site. The hospital, our volunteers and staff hand out packs to patients when they arrive at the hospital for treatment, appointment or admission. Due to the packs being stored on site they are handed out everyday, all year round. Our gifts are packed by our volunteers and community supporters. Due to our work with businesses, wholesalers and donors, the average cost of a gift pack is £3.60. All our items are branded and brand new. We rely on fundraising, donations and funding to make the work we do possible. Our gift packs are simple but they make a huge difference to someone within the hospital setting. How can you be a part of making a difference by supporting The Lewis Foundation? Make a donation - (One off or monthly) by heading to: https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/20642 Join our business club and become a monthly donor for £36. Each month supporting 10 people diagnosed with cancer. For more information and to join, head to: https://www.thelewisfoundation.co.uk/businessclubmember Find out more about The Lewis Foundation by heading to: www.thelewisfoundation.co.uk