For those who celebrate, wishing you a very Happy Easter! Here’s your positive news roundup for this week:
Happy weekend, everyone! Here is your positive news roundup from around New England for this week.
PAULIE’S PUSH FOR A PURPOSE
One former flight attendant is pushing a beverage cart from Logan Airport all the way to Ground Zero in New York City in honor of the flight crew that lost their lives 20 years ago on September 11th. The goal? To bring comfort to the loved ones of those lost and properly honor those who fought bravely on board. “The thought of a family member just being murdered on an airplane for the last 20 years, if I could erase that out of their head they could go to bed at night knowing they were heroes. They absolutely were heroes that day.”
“These are the first first responders,” explained Veneto, who as a former flight attendant himself knows firsthand the feeling of an emergency in the air. “You know when there’s trouble on board on airplane, no matter what it is, you can’t pick up the phone and call the police. You can’t call the fire department, you can’t call anybody. You gotta solve the problem up there, or else it’s over.”
Veneto says he has struggled every year on the anniversary of the attack with the loss of friends he now knows as heroes. His goal, 20 years later, is to make others aware of the sacrifice the brave men and women on board gave on that fateful day. “The crew that I knew on Flight 175, the one that hit the second tower, that plane is bank and almost misses the tower. And I swear deep down in my soul that they were trying to take that cockpit back, the crew. That’s where the country came together, right there, at 30,000 feet.”
With this thought continually in the back of his head, Veneto made the decision five years ago to begin training to bring his plan to life with that same goal in mind: comfort for the families, and honor for the crew. “If I have to push a beverage cart from Logan Airport Boston all the way to Ground Zero New York, then that’s what I’m gonna do.”
SEARCHING FOR STELLA: LOST DOG RETURNED HOME
It was a casual day working from home in the backyard for JR and his dog Stella when a delivery truck arrived. Anxious to protect her home, Stella leapt for the gate-and hit the latch just right to let the gate swing open.
Frantic, JR attempted to bring Stella back inside. Yet she had quickly dashed after the truck down the street, and JR heard the devastating impact of his beloved dog being hit by a car. The driver stopped, but when he looked down she was nowhere to be found.
“That started a night of where we last thought she was, we searched.” After days of searching deterred by weather, JR was able to begin working with a tracking dog to help find Stella. That’s when he learned she had somehow been able to travel 8 miles while injured before her tracks began to cross. Determined to find her, JR continued the search efforts with the help of the his community who he credits with helping bring her home after nine difficult days. “I know a lot of people traveled down into the wilderness of Mashpee trying to find her, and I think that actually pushed her out of where she was.”
Thankfully, all of their hard work paid off. “It was Saturday night a little bit before seven and my phone rang. It was someone saying they found Stella!” he recalls excitedly. With her picture posted on several missing pets sites and JR updating her last known location by the tracker, someone had been able to recognize her when she turned up near a local kennel. “The woman said, ‘Are you missing this really sweet dog that’s hanging out in my kennel?’ and I said yes! Yes, I am!”
Though it was a long time apart, JR says he’s just happy to have her home. “Nine days later, we may never know what she did for those nine days. But I’m just so thankful and so grateful for everyone who helped.”
FALMOUTH ORGANIZATION HELPS BRING INSPIRATION EVERYWHERE
For many, the thought of asking for help can be a challenge. For one Falmouth organization, making life easier for others has already begun to erase that stigma.
“Our main goal is to try and fill in gaps of need in the community,” says Samantha Bauer of Inspiration is Everywhere. “People can come to us when they need help with anything. No matter what it is, there’s nothing too big or too small.” From help shoveling a driveway to sitting beside patients as they endure chemotherapy treatments, starting their own small food pantry and even creating an office space that offers alcohol-free open mic nights, Bauer says they try to meet every need brought to their attention. “We realize that, you know, there are a lot of really good non profit organizations out there, but not everyone qualifies for those services. There are people who fall between the cracks.”
From help with informational services to helping the elderly around the house, rides and even coordinating supply drives, every piece of the organization’s puzzle revolves around one goal: bringing the Falmouth community together to help one another wherever necessary. “If we can partner you with someone (or an organization) that can meet your needs that’s great, if not we use our community volunteers to fix whatever is wrong in your life.”
Right now, Bauer says their current focus is on providing luggage for local children that are between homes. “A lot of kids who get taken into DCF custody have to put their stuff into a trash bag. So we’ve been collecting duffel bags and backpacks for those kids so that they have their own luggage and they don’t have that sort of message that ‘you’re trash’.”
In realizing the needs of others, Bauer says their office has expanded. Today, Inspiration is Everywhere also hosts events such as paint/craft nights, open mic nights or concerts, and other events. Her goal? To help offer a safe place for those who are under 21 looking for a new outlet, those struggling to find affordable activities, or someone who actively trying to avoid drugs and alcohol. “I get it, we live in a tourist economy and we have to cater to, you know, where the money comes from. But the people who are here all year, the people who don’t fit that sort of economic mindset-they’re not just here to spend money, they’re working three jobs and they’re exhausted at the end of the day and struggling to be here and to just exist. Those people need support. Those people need to feel seen; they need to be accepted.”
To learn more about Inspiration is Everywhere, Paulie’s Push or to hear Stella’s story, watch the full episode below:
When my Mom & I found out my father-in-law and husband were painting the bathroom as part of a full remodel we’re doing, we were OVER THE MOON excited! Just one little problem: this 8 months pregnant lady isn’t supposed to be around fumes, and my Mom gets severe headaches from just a whiff of primer. While we’re not big on traveling right now, we knew staying in the house wasn’t an option (and honestly, after a year of staying home, we could totally use the break to get out!). Luckily, we were able to find a safe way to enjoy a little Mommy & me staycation just down the road that allowed us to play tourists for the weekend.
We chose to stay at Inn On The Square in Falmouth, a cute little place downtown we’d never tried! After spraying & scrubbing the ever-loving-crap out of the room & dragging in our own sheets and pillows like crazy people, we spent Friday night getting settled, ordering takeout & binge watching episodes of our new favorite show, Good Girls, on Netflix.
On Saturday morning, we woke up ready to grab some coffee & explore. We went down to Menahaunt Beach to enjoy our coffee and have a nice walk breathing in some fresh, salty ocean air. While there might have been a slight chill in the air, the view can’t be beat!
Feeling like we wanted to continue exploring, we took a ride down to Spohr Gardens. While I hadn’t been there in ages, going there with my Mom brought back some really amazing memories. As a little girl, she and I used to go there all the time for an afternoon and to enjoy their well-known Daffodil Days! Dressing up & soaking in all the fresh air and natural beauty one of Falmouth’s hidden gems has to offer was always a treat, and though it may not have been daffodil season just yet, it still brought us just as much joy when we returned. I actually have a picture of me as a little girl among the flowers…it’s crazy to think of how young I was when my mother took me then vs. now about to give birth to a baby of my own (still wearing pink though, of course!)
All that walking worked up quite an appetite (especially for me with the little bean jumping around in my belly!), so we opted for pickup from one of our favorite restaurants: Le Bon Jour! I opted for Le Puy, a power bowl that is packed with nutrients. With ingredients like avocado, beets, lentils, and apple, I topped it with some grilled chicken for a little extra protein and modified to sub their apple cider vinaigrette dressing. It hit the spot as a great guilt-free meal that we enjoyed while supporting a local restaurant. It’s a win-win every time!
While we chose to snuggle back in with more tv for the evening since it’s easy to get worn out quick when you’re making another human, the next day we woke up well rested & ready to explore again. Checkout at Inn on the Square is at 11, so we slept in, got our things together and grabbed some breakfast to enjoy by the water again. This time, we took our coffee to the Woods Hole Waterfront Park, which this time of year is usually very quiet. Taking in the view and a stroll on the beach, we continued for another walk down Main Street.
This was a bittersweet walk: growing up, my Dad had worked for years at the Marine Biological Laboratory and just retired this year. I’d also gone to preschool at the Woods Hole Child Center, and have spent a ton of time over the years at places like Captain Kidd, the Landfall, Coffee O (which used to be Pie In The Sky!) and made countless trips rushing to the ferry when my husband was living on Martha’s Vineyard. Woods Hole has always had a special place in my heart for those reasons, but also because I just plain have a natural draw to its small-town seaside charm that makes for a perfect gateway to Martha’s Vineyard. Yet strolling past all of the boarded-up businesses that still had Christmas decorations in the window was a heartbreaking reminder of why we’ve continued to be so cautious during this time, and both Mom & I were grateful in that moment to know that there is hope for a (somewhat!) normal future soon.
Overall, it was an INCREDIBLE staycation weekend! It’s funny how different local places you go all the time can feel once you put on a “vacation” mindset. These were places we’d drive past all the time, roads we’d take daily and that we’ve spent our lives calling home. All we had to do was give ourselves permission to enjoy them, and we DID!
Here’s your positive news roundup for Sunday, March 21st! Here are the highlights featured in this week’s episode (video link below!).
Imagine shotgunning a beer in the shower and using the excuse, “But it’s for charity!” This week, Kelsey Roth of Exhibit A Brewing in Framingham did exactly that- and it paid off to the tune of over a thousand dollars that all went to the Special Olympics. Great work, Kelsey!
Playing bingo with Rob Gronkowski and his (gorgeous) supermodel girlfriend Camille Kostek sounds like something you might think would be a weird dream, right? This week, it actually happened! The pair hosted a virtual bingo night to benefit Dana Farber & The Jimmy Fund. As you might imagine, it was a hit: all $65,000 raised went straight to charity.
Tired of tripping over old legos, or ready to purge your collection in a spring cleaning sweep? Let Lego themselves do the work of getting them in the hands of kids in need for you! Thanks to their Replay Program, you can now print out a shipping label, slap it on a box and send them back to the company who will do all the sanitizing & distributing for you. Where will they end up? Lego partners with organizations like the Boys & Girls Club of Boston and Teach For America to make sure the blocks land in the right hands.
To hear all of these stories and more, watch this week’s episode of Good News New England below!
The subscription box game has changed so much over the years, you can get nearly anything mailed monthly. From gardening seeds to really good scotch or even hygiene products, there’s no lack of possibilities. So when I first learned one of my favorite small businesses, S Design, was getting into the subscription box game, I was beyond excited and so ready to see what she’d have in store!
When I first talked to Tricia, founder of S Design Jewelry in Framingham, her warm and energetic presence was contagious as she shared with me her passion for matching meaningful pieces to each individual customer. Furthermore, I was touched by her story of how S Design Jewelry all began. “I became a mother late in life, feeling blessed and connected. Sharing the gift of love and connection through jewelry design fills my heart, and allows me to be a full-time mother to my daughter Savannah, the namesake of the brand.”
Once I received my first box, I was instantly in love with the brand’s whole vibe! If you’re drawn to the healing powers of stones, love supporting small businesses made in the USA or even if you’re just looking to up your jewelry game, those are just three of many reasons why this box might be for you. But enough talk: let’s see what’s inside!
WHAT’S INSIDE THIS MONTH’S S DESIGN SUBSCRIPTION BOX
The first thing you’ll notice when you receive any order placed with S Design is the packaging. Yep-Tricia designs all of her own boxes, too. This month’s trove of treasures came in a beautiful keepsake box tied gracefully with a bow that looks so pretty you almost don’t even want to untie it! It’s one of those things where you just know it’s never going to look that perfectly done again, but is timelessly elegant and makes for a great first impression.
Once I opened up my box, the first thing I saw was a beautiful picture of Tricia and her daughter Savannah on a postcard that tells the story of how S Design Jewelry all began. This is an important personal touch: not only because if you are giving it as a gift they are able to get some background on the brand, but it’s also a reminder that you’re supporting a small business that is grateful for each and every sale. Underneath the postcard was a second personal touch: a thoughtful, handwritten note letting me know the inspiration behind this month’s theme: intention & protection.
Arranged neatly underneath the welcoming notes, my goodies were waiting! The first piece I picked up was in a neatly tied burlap sack. That’s another thing to note about these boxes – the individual packaging for each piece will be something reusable that you can use to either keep your gems safe in or find a creative way to use around your home! Inside the bag, I gently lifted out a pair of sterling silver & onyx ear wires. The second I pulled them out, an outfit popped into my head of how I could style them and I got SO excited! Little did I know, these beauties would pair perfectly with the next piece in the box: a lucky horseshoe bracelet that arrived just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. (Note: This post is a few days after my initial unboxing.) The sleek sterling silver bracelet with onyx beading and a lucky horseshoe charm had three words printed on its presentation card: lucky, spirited, optimism. The bracelet is intended to be a literal good luck charm!
Why did Tricia choose onyx, and what does it represent? Well, if you remember the opening card, she had let me know this box would be focused on intention & protection. Onyx is known for its healing properties of pulling out your intention, and as Tricia has so gracefully described it to me in the past the goal is to, as you put on your onyx pieces, set your own intentions for the day.
Neatly nestled in the top left corner of the box was another set of surprises that arrived in a small black box also tied with a pretty little bow. Inside, two bracelets had been thoughtfully arranged just for me: the first was a beaded bracelet with the words TRUTH on it. As a reporter, for me this was so incredibly meaningful: every day, I am honored to tell the stories of others, to speak up for those without a voice, and use my natural curiosity for good to relentlessly search for the truth. It was a sweet reminder that what I do has meaning, and I was touched by Tricia’s ability to somehow know exactly what bracelet would speak to my soul.
Underneath my truth bracelet was the second piece to the puzzle from the note she’d transcribed: a beaded turquoise bracelet that brought me all the seaside vibes while representing-you guessed it- protection! Extra protection is something we all could use an unlimited supply of in our lives right now, not only with COVID going around but from all the emotions coming to the surface as we face the one year anniversary of the pandemic. Speaking of which, here’s how Tricia is continuing to give back to those *still* fighting on the front lines of this thing!
THE COVID STRONG INITIATIVE
Originally, I had interviewed Tricia to discuss a campaign she’d launched to give back to healthcare heroes at the start of the pandemic called Covid Strong. Each hematite bracelet in the design represented one of four pillars of strength: community, resilience, courage, and compassion. With each sale, a second bracelet was donated to a worker of your choosing in your community. “We have used hematite in this design for its healing qualities,” she explains in a description on her website. “Hematite helps to absorb negative energy and calms in times of stress or worry. Widely coveted as a protective stone by stabilizing one’s energy with its grounding force, it transforms negative energy into positive vibrations and fostering hope in the wearer.” If you’d like to learn more about the Covid Strong initiative, check out her website here: https://www.sdesignjewelry.com/collections/covid19strong
Want to see the full video of the unboxing? Here’s the video below!
As this week marked an incredibly odd one year anniversary of the Coronavirus lockdowns, I can’t think of a better way to reflect than to honor those who have used this time to give back to others and lift their spirits. That’s why this episode is jam-packed full of gifts for YOU: a chance to hang out with Tom Brady (because let’s be honest, we all miss the GOAT!), 20% off your purchase at a small business that is donating proceeds to help others, and giving a shout out to the Cape Cod man who brings the fun every Friday with virtual weekly dance parties.
HOW YOU CAN HANG OUT WITH TOM BRADY (AND GIVE TO HIS FAVORITE CHARITY!)
It was a hard pill to swallow nearly one year ago today when the GOAT left the Patriots. He hasn’t stopped giving back to his favorite New England charity, however, and is now offering the ultimate incentive for those who can to give, give, GIVE!
Brady partnered with giving giveaway site Omaze.com to offer up the chance for you and a friend to grab lunch with him, toss the ball around and even try on one of his Super Bowl rings! Flights and hotel for the winner & a friend are included, and proceeds will be going directly to benefit Best Buddies. Why did Brady choose this particular charity?
He’s actually been a long-time supporter of the cause and a buddy himself, and was a staple in the yearly Harvard Stadium Best Buddies Challenge. In 2019, he even roped in Julian Edelman & James White to join him on the field and at the exclusive afterparty where even renowned chef Guy Fieri was on hand to cook up culinary goodness. (Wondering what that looked like? Go inside the event I covered with the BosBabes in 2019 here!: The BosBabes: Best Buddies Challenge)
How much does it cost, you ask? Donations can range from $10-$100, designed to fit a range of budgets while offering additional entries to those who cough up a bit more cash for the cause. Ready to join in? Here’s the link!: Meet Tom Brady
MEET THE MERMAID BEHIND THE RISE UP DESIGNS
Chances are if you’ve recently been to Cape Cod, you’ve seen the (totally trending) Rise Up shirts floating around. You’ve probably been wondering what the meaning is behind the shirts, and on tonight’s episode we’ve got your answer! We sat down with Executive Mermaid Shari Assad-Aussant (aka “Shaz”) to learn the details behind the design (and it will probably make you tear up!).
“Rise up project started when I recognized that a lot of people on Cape Cod were losing their jobs. All of the fairs and festivals were closing down, all the little pop-ups were closing, and I wanted to be able to help,”” says Shaz, whose own small business had relied heavily on events like the Barnstable County Fair and local craft beer festivals where she met hundreds of other vendors like herself.
At a loss for how to help, Shaz sat down with her sketchbook and got to work doing what she does best: designing. “So it was probably 3 in the morning when I started drawing and I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. The sun was rising and I thought, when the sun rises a friend of mine used to say ‘a tide rises all ships’. So I saw the sun, and I saw the water, and I just kept seeing the tide rising up and bringing all of us up at the same time.” Once she had sketched out her vision, she knew she’d found her way to help and came up with a plan to donate proceeds from her sales this line to local food pantries. The idea began to grow the moment she made her first call. “I made a couple of really cute designs and I called my favorite printer, Cape Cod Textiles, and he said, ‘Well, I wanna do one too for the men!”
While she hadn’t been sure what to expect, within hours Shaz received an overwhelming response from her Mermaid Tribe that quickly allowed her to donate the first check. “I have to be honest the first time it happened I cried, because within probably 3 hours we had over three thousand dollars in orders and that’s not something we normally see.” As the Cape Cod community continued to support the cause, Shaz found herself giving more than she’d ever expected. “The first check was for $5,000, then another check for $5,000 and then another check for $5,000, and pretty soon we were close to $25,000 in three months’ time,” she explained with a big smile on her face. Yet the humble designer didn’t want the credit: she wanted those receiving the generous donations to know exactly where the funds came from. “I always wrote on behalf of your community. We’re all in this together- nobody has left COVID unscathed. Nobody.”
Want to snag your own Rise Up gear? Use our code GOODNEWS to get 20% off your purchase while still giving to the cause! Link to shop: https://www.mermaidsoncapecod.com/search?q=rise+up
Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been basically staying home for the whole. Entire. Pandemic. As a germaphobe with a husband who is at a higher risk for COVID complications, this comes as a surprise to absolutely no one and is fitting to my stubborn Portuguese routes that force me to fight fiercely for what I believe in. So for me to come out of the house to get my hair done, it would have to be a really, really good reason and I’d have to do my research on making sure it was safe (especially while being 32 weeks pregnant!). Honestly, I don’t think I would have done it if I didn’t have a stylist that I absolutely trust with my whole heart.
Courtney at Spoke & Weal on Newbury Street has been my go-to gal, and ever since she welcomed me into her chair I can’t imagine seeing anybody else. It was hard to stay away from her during the pandemic as I watched my roots grow (real talk: ALL of your body hair will grow in pregnancy like CRAZY thanks to the hormones!). I knew that once I sat my butt back in that chair, my poor girl was going to have a LOT of work to do. So when my doctor gave me the go-ahead to get my hair done, I was thrilled! Yet for me, that wasn’t the only step to take. I also needed to check in with Courtney to find out what their COVID protocols were and ensure that I would feel comfortable going. As always, she was a gem about it and ensured me two things:
- She’d use products that were safe for pregnancy on my hair (yay!)
- She actually went as far as to open early so that for the first hour, she and I were the only people in the salon in a chair that was thoughtfully spaced out from where other appointments would be. We both wore our masks (I even double masked), and Courtney made sure to ask if I’d like to stick to just her doing my hair or if I was comfortable with having someone step in to blow dry. (Personally, I felt most comfortable limiting my interaction with others and chose to stick with her.)
The first thing she did was give my mess a spray down with detangler & brush through. Then, it was time to set the color! As she did, we caught up on life & before I knew it she gingerly sat a foil cape over her work as I sat back, relaxed & watched baby boy kick around in there.
Next, it was time for a rinse & hair mask! She used a product called K18 Biommetic HairScience, described as a “professional molecular repair hair mask”. Now, she put a lot of work into my hair, but can confirm that this was definitely a next-level product that left my hair feeling silky smooth and oh-so-in-love with it. Not that I’ll be ditching Drybar anytime soon…but it seriously felt like learning a secret to how they give you that salon-soft feel!
Once I was out of the wash chair, Courtney sprayed my hair down this time with Aveda’s Pure Abundance Style Prep & Nutri Plenish Leave In Conditioner. Now, neither of those are things I use in my daily routine: I usually use a heat protectant when I blow dry, a hair mask once a week and run some invisible oil through my tresses on the days where it feels a bit dry, so there was definitely an opportunity to learn here about products I likely should be adding to my routine. Although we were short on time for styling (my fault for not saving enough time between a doctor’s appointment!), my hair STILL felt like heaven when I walked out the door after my blow-dry.
Here’s the full video that takes you inside Spoke & Weal so you can see for yourself Courtney’s process, kindness and get a firsthand look at what the Newbury Street shop has to offer!
*Video will be aired at 10:30AM (EST) on Saturday, March 14th, 2021
While random acts of kindness happen every day all over the world, this week’s roundup features three people from Norwood, Abington and Falmouth that have gone above & beyond to bring smiles to strangers.
MAN CAUGHT IN THE ACT OF KINDNESS
Meet Deputy Chief John “Jack” Glynn of Abington Fire Department that was caught in the act of kindness after laying down as much cash as he could to cover coffee for patrons at a local Marylou’s. While he’d intended to stay anonymous and just enjoy watching the smiles he put on people’s faces from the background in memory of several people in his life he has lost, a friend in the shop sniffed him out as the culprit. His photo began to circulate on Facebook through an organization called Annie’s Kindness Blankets to which Glynn is very close, and it was revealed that he donated in honor of Anne Marie Varney, Alex Kokoros, and Sgt. Michael Chesna. When asked what inspired him, Glynn responded that sometimes it just plain feels good to see someone else smile. “With what I do for a living, you can see the worst of things,” he explained, “Through the darkness, you can see light if you look for it.”
KNITTING FOR A CAUSE
When two friends Lesley & Francey began knitting to pass the time at the start of quarantine, they never imagined one year later they would be dedicating entire rooms of their homes to store donated yarn. Yet once they began donating their plush pieces to veterans in need after an ask for help at Lesley’s temple, the pair found they couldn’t stop. “Then we decided, ‘Well, let’s do something for somewhere local’. Francey found a nursing home in Norton, and that’s when we began making the blankets and pouches that go on walkers,” explains Lesley. Yet they didn’t stop there – their mission is now expanding not only to include other care facilities, but knitting blankets for premature babies that are entering into foster homes. “The first time we went to drop stuff off at the nursing home, the Director of the nursing home actually cried,” says a smiling Francey. “It’s such a win-win-win. I mean, we clearly are winning it’s been our sanity through COVID. You know, we can sit for hours and do this, together and apart. For the people who donate, I think people feel really good about it; they feel like they’re participating and for the recipients, it’s also a huge win.” You go, girls!
To hear more about this week’s stories, tune in to Episode 8 below! What else is in store? Get your weekly motivation by JT who talks this week about helping and accepting help from those around you. I also have a #FreshLookFriday I’ve been SO EXCITED to share with you – it’s a living room before & after showing you how I decorated our space and the one tip I have for falling in love with any room in your home.
Okay first of all..how has it already been one year of this Covid chaos? Somehow, it’s happened, and today I’m giving a HUGE shout out to YOU for powering through. No matter what you’ve gone through, no matter has changed (or not changed that you really wanted to), YOU are strong and brave just for surviving this year. That had to be said before anything else – but now, let’s move on to a few things that will make you smile today!
BOSTON CANNONS, LOCAL RESTAURANT GROUP OWNER SUPPORT QUINCY YOUTH SPORTS
This week in Quincy, Boston Cannons Lacrosse Executive Chris Rucker teamed up with restaurant group owner Donato Frattaroli to make a generous donation to Quincy & North Quincy High Schools coordinated thanks to some help from the Pigskin Gala Fund. The $4,000 check, presented at Frattaroli’s Boardwalk Pizza, will send funds directly to the joint Quincy-North Quincy boys’ lacrosse program, the Quincy High School girls’ soccer program, the Chris “Chief” McCallum Scholarship Fund & Stuart Slicis Memorial City of Presidents Scholarship Fund. “We’re hoping these donations will help Quincy’s student athletes and college-bound young adults achieve their goals on and off the sports field,” says Frattaroli.
TWO GRATEFUL FRIENDS SUPPORT OTHERS BATTLING CANCER
We’ve all heard of paying it forward, but two grateful friends took that mantra to the next level. When close friends Lee & Gwen learned they were each battling a different type of cancer in 2014, the pair says they felt grateful to have each other during an incredibly challenging time. As they recovered, they realized a new mission: to help others who may not be so lucky to have such support. That’s when their foundation, Two Grateful Friends, was born to donate baskets for anyone going through cancer treatment (at no cost regardless of financial need) that cater to each individual’s diagnosis. The organization also offers grants to those who are struggling financially as the staggering costs of cancer begin to add up.
The charity’s Executive Director Kim Paratore knows firsthand the devastating impact cancer can have on a family. Her own family’s heartbreaking experience and the loss of her beloved husband is what she says opened her eyes to just how costly cancer can be. “My husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at age 48. He was healthy, a non-smoker, went to the doctor every year and wasn’t feeling well for a couple of weeks. He died 10 weeks later after treatment at Mass General. But during that time- we had great insurance, we had friends and support -I saw firsthand the amount of bills.” Paratore recalled standing at the pharmacy counter filling prescriptions and being shocked at the cost of treatment. “There would be times when I would go to CVS and fill three prescriptions. Even with the co-pay, because of the advanced cancer drugs -they weren’t generic, you couldn’t get a $6 prescription-sometimes it would be $75 copays times three. Then they would change the medicine and say, ‘Oh next week don’t take that because that gave you a fever, take this’. Now it’s another $150.”
This experience changed her entire perspective on families battling cancer. “I used to think, ‘Why do people have fundraisers at the VFW or Gofundme pages when someone is diagnosed with cancer? Don’t they have health insurance?’ But people that have cancer have extraordinary bills, extraordinary circumstances where they don’t feel well enough to work; they don’t feel strong enough to go into an office and put in an 8 hour day. They need to take a nap, their treatment makes them sick, or they have these bills and that’s really where we come in,” she explains. “It’s not (that) people that have done anything wrong or not saved money, this can be financially devastating for someone to have a cancer diagnosis. Now to be stressed that your lights will be shut off? I can’t even imagine layering that on top of a breast cancer diagnosis.”
To make a donation or request a basket for someone you know who is battling cancer, visit www.gratefulfriends.org.
AMESBURY WOMAN REFLECTS ON HONORING LATE DAUGHTER THROUGH TAMMI’S CLOSET AS FOUNDATION CLOSES ITS DOORS
After losing her daughter Tammi in a tragic accident, Betty Vitale was determined to find a way to honor her late daughter by helping other young women. One afternoon, after donating her daughter’s prom dress that she’d struggled to part with, the grieving mother found her answer on how to do just that. “10 years after my Tammi had died, I finally decided I could let her dress go. So I brought it up to the East Boston high school, and by the time I got home which was like 10 minutes-somebody had taken the dress. It had fit somebody perfectly.”
This experience gave Betty the inspiration she needed to found an organization to help make this dream come true for other young ladies in need of a prom dress that otherwise could not afford it, and Tammi’s Closet was born. “7 weeks later, I’m open. I opened up with like maybe 70 dresses,” she recalled. “When I started it, I just wanted to keep my Tammi’s name going. She was only 19 when she died and had just gotten engaged to be married two days before. I remember the first dress I gave out, the mother was like, ‘It was either pay my rent or get my daughter a prom dress and I had to pick pay the rent.’ She said now, she got both. I can remember the fluttering I got in my heart, and I thought wow, this is going to help some girls.” For the first two years, Betty says things went very well and each night, she’d recap the day over a cup of tea on her porch telling Tammi how many girls she had been able to help.
Yet on April Fool’s Day of their third year, Betty came in to notice something was off. “I noticed some dresses were missing, and I thought the girls that volunteer for me had hid them on me. But they all said ‘No, they didn’t’. Somebody had come in and taken about 15 prom dresses,” she had learned. “I was heartbroken. They were free, why would anyone take them? I would have gave them to them, you know?” Fortunately, the theft left Betty a blessing in disguise. “I reported it to the police, and within 3 hours my phone starts ringing. There were news trucks everywhere, and I started getting dresses sent to me- 900 dresses by the end of the year! I didn’t know what I was going to do with them all!” she recalls, laughing. “I put out there on Facebook that I needed help with storage, and a couple called me up and said, ‘We’ll be there tomorrow, you can put them in our warehouse free of charge’.”
This was a major turning point for the organization, that was finally able to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony last year on her new space. Betty says she had been so excited, she’d poured her own money into furnishing the store to make it look like a real boutique-only to be forced to close weeks later due to the pandemic. “My heart broke for these girls,” says Betty, who held out hope only to be disappointed with the 2021 season. “This year, we didn’t know if there were going to be any proms.”
Sadly, disaster was about to strike again for the Vitale family. The building she has lived in for years was sold, and the new landlord went up in rent by more than she and her husband could afford. Despite her best efforts in searching for something her family could afford, the Vitales were ultimately forced to leave the state altogether and move in with family in Florida. This meant Tammi’s Closet would be no more. “I had to make the decision on closing it, and it was the hardest decision I ever made. I felt like I was saying goodbye to my Tammi all over again. There’s a lot more girls out there I wanted to help,” Betty said tearfully, reflecting on the many young women she and her husband have helped walk out of Tammi’s Closet with sparkles and a smile. Thankfully, one buyer stepped in to take most of her inventory to start a similar program for other women – and Tammi’s Closet, though not by name, will live on in spirit through the dresses given to other young women in need.
To hear more about these stories, watch this week’s episode below!