The idea is so clever: Caring people offering diversions of all types to patients while they are receiving their chemotherapy. That is what Cancer Wellness Connections is all about. Based in Rochester, New York, the organization is the innovation of Eileen Grossman, who thought of it while she was visiting friends during their chemotherapy infusions.

Ms Grossman wanted to help her friends pass the time during their treatments, so she brought a card table and cards, snacks, another friend, and of course, chocolate. With all that, she certainly created a diversion in the infusion room. So much so that other patients asked to join the group the next time.

Ms Grossman realized that extending her card games to other patients — and even other hospitals — would be a good project. So she discussed her idea with oncologists Cynthia Angel, MD, and Brent DuBeshter, MD, at Lattimore Medical Center. Together, they founded Cancer Wellness Connections in 2006, and saw it develop into a great success. The program currently supports patients undergoing treatment at 6 hospital locations throughout Rochester, and helps up to 20,000 patients each year.

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Age-Appropriate Programs

In addition to its activities for adult patients during their infusions, Cancer Wellness Connections also developed a program for younger patients. Volunteers with Better Day Buddies, launched in 2008, bring crafts, books, games, and pizza to provide a diversion for patients aged 2 to 20 years while they receive their chemotherapy infusions.

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Better Day Buddies volunteers do not just come in and pass out the pizza (the cost of which is covered by a grant); they also hand out bags of goodies and toys for everyone to enjoy. The volunteers interact with the parents as well, providing a much-needed release for both parents and children. There are reports of children coming into the infusion room saying, “I love this place!”

Volunteers would deliver meals from local restaurants that may not offer a delivery service. As a result, Cancer Wellness Connections established relationships with more than 20 of the best restaurants in Rochester that donate anything from a tray of cookies and pastries to a wonderful hearty soup or a pasta plate. A patient can truly say, “Hey I had chemo. But I had a wonderful meal from one of the best local restaurants!”