Ensuring No One Faces Cancer Alone
Photography by Wes Battoclette
Dealing with the stress of cancer for you or a loved one is overwhelming – emotionally and socially. But Cancer Support Community Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky is taking strides to make sure that no one faces cancer alone. For 25 years, Cancer Support Community has been improving the lives of people in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky offering free support, programs and services to improve quality of life and survivorship.
Art studio at Lynn Stern Center, mural painted by CSC volunteers.
In 1988, Lynn Stern was watching the Phil Donahue Show with special guest Dr. Harold Benjamin, founder of The Wellness Community located in Santa Monica, California. At the end of the segment Dr. Benjamin said,“If anyone is interested in starting a Wellness Community contact me.” As an ovarian cancer survivor and moved by his mission of providing education, hope and community to those impacted by cancer, Stern picked up the phone and immediately contacted Dr. Benjamin.
Harry and April Davidow
Shortly after placing the call Stern and her friend Sherry Weathers, a breast cancer survivor, flew to Santa Monica to meet with Dr. Benjamin and his team at The Wellness Community. The women returned to Cincinnati inspired by the organization’s philosophy, approach and impact.
“Harry and I picked Lynn and Sherry up from the airport. When they got off the plane they said, ‘We are starting a Wellness Community here in Cincinnati and you two are helping,’ ” says April Davidow, Stern’s sister-in-law.
Davidow and her husband Harry were no strangers to the nonprofit world and welcomed the opportunity to support Stern and bring The Wellness Community’s benefits to Cincinnati’s community affected by cancer.
“I’m a cancer survivor, I had colon cancer 33 years ago, but that had nothing to do with me getting into this – my kid sister Lynn had developed ovarian cancer at age 43. Unfortunately our family is a carrier of either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. When we started I didn’t understand the value of the organization until I saw the results. I was astounded by the idea that the organization really, really helped people and still does,” says Harry.
“When Harold Benjamin founded The Wellness Community, he had a belief in what he called ‘the patient active concept,’ which said, ‘If you participate in your recovery with your medical team you will improve your quality of life, and you may enhance your ability to recover. You will be better for participating in the battle.’“ The philosophy combines the will of the patient with the skill of the physician – a powerful combination.
Soon after, a board of directors and a capital campaign committee was formed. Regardless of the amount of community support the young organization had, they still needed financial support to bring their vision to fruition.
“We needed $250,000 to start the organization and open the doors – we raised it in a year,” says April. Once the money was raised through various fundraising efforts, Weathers, Stern and the Davidows began to prepare for the opening of Cincinnati’s own Wellness Community.
– Harry Davidow
The organization officially opened its doors at The Towers of Kenwood in November of 1990, as the sixth Wellness Community to open nationally and has been advancing the innovations that are becoming the standard in integrated cancer care ever since.
In March of 2001, the organization moved to The Lynn Stern Center in Blue Ash, where the organization is currently located. The center was named in memory of Lynn, who experienced cancer recurrence and later passed away in 1999.
The Wellness Community – National joined forces with Gilda’s Club Worldwide, a similar organization, and became Cancer Support Community in 2009. The merger created a global network of more than 50 affiliates offering emotional and social support through free, professionally led programs at more than 150 locations.
In 2011, the local organization’s name changed to Cancer Support Community Greater Cincinnati – Northern Kentucky (CSC) to better establish a consistent identity with the global organization. Through the merger and name change the organization was able to better communicate the global mission: to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community.
Twenty-five years after Lynn Stern recognized the need, CSC continues to offer a community approach to cancer care and support every individual impacted, including the patient, spouse, partners, children, neighbors and friends.
Backed by evidence that the best cancer care includes social and emotional support, CSC offers more than 250 programs and services each month that are intended to provide non-medical care to individuals and families to support a holistic, patient-active approach to wellness.
CSC offers these services free of charge through professionally-led support groups, educational workshops and presentations, healthy lifestyle programs, social activities and programs specific to families and children. Because each person’s journey with cancer is unique, participants can choose from a comprehensive menu of programs that are offered at the Lynn Stern Center in Blue Ash, off-site location in Ft. Wright Kentucky, as well as various other satellite locations.
CSC’s programs and services are designed to complement conventional medical care, enhance the patient’s quality of life, improve adherence to treatment and the recovery process, strengthen survivor care and facilitate better communication with medical teams.
CSC is 100 percent privately funded through philanthropy, including generous individual donors, corporate partners, foundations and civic groups. All of the money donated stays in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area to support the organization’s goals.
CSC is also supported by a large volunteer base, local hospitals, medical practices and other non-profit organizations that share similar philosophies.
“Every single thing we do is free. That’s why we fundraise every single day – everyone who comes in pays nothing. When you have cancer you have all of these medical bills, so it’s a good thing not to have to worry about,” says April.
“CSC has amazingly generous and philanthropic partners from corporations such as The Wyler Group and Bartlett & Co. to foundations such as the Charles H. Dater Foundation and The Josephine S. Russell Charitable Trust at PNC to our countless individual donors. We are grateful for the local support we receive and continue to work to grow, not only our awareness, but our partnerships within the community,” says Gretchen Ramstetter, Director of Development for CSC.
The Ways to Support
There are a number of ways for individuals, companies and organizations to support CSC’s mission in addition to philanthropy, so that no one faces cancer alone.
Share the Mission: Share the CSC mission, stories and information through social media and word of mouth.
Volunteer: There are many ways to get involved whether on a one-time, weekly, monthly or project basis. CSC welcomes assistance from individuals, as well as, community or corporate groups through outreach, fundraising, administrative assistance and on a professional level, presenting workshops or lectures.
Lynn Stern Society: Many individuals leave a legacy by designating CSC as a beneficiary through planned giving.
Shop to Support: Legacies Upscale Resale, located in Hyde Park, is an upscale consignment and donation store. Staffed primarily of volunteers, 100 percent of Legacies’ profits are donated to CSC.
The Community of Hope
CSC offers an orientation-like meeting, Connect to Community, where individuals impacted by cancer interested in gaining hope, education and community can learn more about the many options available through the organization.
“I always tell people to go to the introductory group (Connect to Community) and see if you like what it is about. It isn’t for everybody, but it’s so nice to share with somebody else who is going through the same thing,” says April.
As one participants explains, “I felt immediately embraced by the community, and was given not only moral support but practical advice. Additionally, hearing all of the varied stories helped me put ours into perspective, and gave me great encouragement.”
Cancer Support Community – Blue Ash is located at 4918 Cooper Road, Cincinnati, OH 45242. You can reach them at 513.791.4060, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cancersupportcincinnati.org.
Cancer Support Community – Ft. Wright is located at 1717 Dixie Highway, Suite 160, Ft. Wright, KY. You can reach them at 859.331.5568, by email at email@example.com or visit www.cancersupportcincinnati.org.
Serving as Cancer Support Community’s premier annual fundraising event, this year’s Evening of Hope Gala will honor Bill Krul as the 2015 Celebration of Life recipient for his longtime support of CSC’s mission.
Krul is the CEO and senior partner of Miller-Valentine Group. With Krul’s leadership the company is built on a commitment to quality and integrity, which is reflected in the buildings they construct and the services they offer. Krul and his wife Patricia are dedicated to philanthropy and community service in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
Krul has served on the CSC Board for 20 years, including serving as president in 2003 and 2004. His support of CSC, including his integral role in the building and opening of The Lynn Stern Center, is invaluable and inspiring.
“Bill Krul is an integral part of the continued success of the CSC and its fundraising efforts. He is dedicated to the cause and it is evident in the funding he is able to recruit. The ‘friend’ Bill is the same genuine person as the ‘champion of the cause’ Bill and CSC is blessed to have his support,” says Barbara Bushman, longtime friend and supporter of CSC.
The Evening of Hope is CSC’s premier annual fundraising event, featuring entertainment, cocktail reception, dinner, raffle and live auction. Over 350 friends and supporters are expected to attend this year’s event. The event will be held on Saturday, October 24 at the Kenwood Country Club.
For more information on how to get involved with the Evening of Hope Gala or Cancer Support Community Greater Cincinnati – Northern Kentucky, please contact Gretchen Ramstetter, Director of Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (513) 791-4060.