We sat down with Elise Ziv, participant on the HopeWell Cancer Support’s Reachout campaign, after placing 3rd on the Individual Leaderboard! We wanted to hear how HopeWell helped her through a very difficult time in her life, through which we learned the true meaning of community. Read more of Elise’s story below from our conversation earlier this week.
Scott: Tell us a little about yourself, where you live, and what some of your hobbies are, other than participating in virtual races for HopeWell!
Elise: I live in Baltimore, MD and I’m a full-time mom of 2 teenage boys. In a former life I was a human resources/benefits administrator. I’ve recently found that I love ceramics! I took a class earlier this year and found it was a great way to channel my creativity. There’s something about taking a lump of clay and working with it to create a functional object or even an abstract piece of art. I also love old movies and photographing clouds.
S: Having read your Appeal, I think I have a good understanding why you’re fundraising for HopeWell. Why did you decide to join and what’s your relationship with the organization?
E: I’ve been involved with HopeWell for almost 13 years. I first became aware of it when my late husband was diagnosed with brain cancer back in 2006. We started going to the brain cancer support group so he could know he wasn’t alone in his diagnosis. I started attending the caregiver support group so that I could have a safe space to get the support I needed as his primary caregiver. And our boys found their own special kind of support in the Kid’s Circle group where they made lasting friendships with other kids who had a parent with cancer. After my husband died, the boys found the Kid’s Grief group especially comforting and the Parent’s Grief group was just what I needed for myself. Also, during this time, I took advantage of some of the creative arts classes to help me, as well.
I had a great support system in my friends and family, too. And the addition of HopeWell to the mix really helped the boys and I survive and thrive in our new normal. I don’t know where I’d be without HopeWell and their programs and support!
So it was a no-brainer (see what I did there?) to join HopeWell and fundraise for them. It’s a way for me to give back to the organization. All the programs I used (and ALL the programs, in general) at HopeWell are offered free of charge to all participants. And while they are free to the participants, they do have a cost to the organization. HopeWell’s operating budget is close to $1million, and anything I can do to help raise the necessary funds to keep all that programming FREE, count me in!
I also volunteer 2 days a week at HopeWell – anything from answering phones, stocking the bathroom, setting up for meetings, to changing the water bottles – however I can help. Oh, and did I mention that I have been co-chair of our ReachOut campaign for the past 3 years, as well as part of HopeWell’s Governance Circle!
S: You keep so busy!! For someone that might not know anything about HopeWell, what would you want that individual to know about why it is so important to support this cause?
E: It’s so important to support this cause because ALL programs are offered FREE OF CHARGE to ALL participants! The financial burden put on someone who has been affected by cancer can be devastating. Having a place to come, to receive social and psychological support, that requires no financial outlay, is a HUGE relief to our community. We are unique in that way. We rely solely on donations from the local community. We receive no government funds or funds from national cancer organizations.
HopeWell is a special place located in a pastural setting – it’s the “anti-hospital” since it doesn’t have that sterile feeling most hospitals have. Families and patients love it here.
S: Why is giving back important to you in general?
E: Giving back is important to me because the generosity of people before me allowed me to benefit in my time of need. Now that I have the time and ability to give back, it makes me feel good. And I’m not just giving back, I’m paying it forward.
S: Do you support or volunteer your time with other non-profits? Which ones?
E: Years before cancer entered my family’s life, I volunteered at one of the local animal shelters. I was also active in the school PTA for a few years. I do have some other non-profits that I support that are related to the brain cancer community.
S: Shifting to the fitness side of things, what was your strategy for hitting your fitness challenge goal? What motivated you to go further?
E: I incorporated my usual routine into my goal. I try to walk about 3 miles at least 3-4 times a week. Knowing that I was keeping track of my steps motivated me to get out more frequently.
S: Did you have a fitness buddy/workout with other members on your team? Or was this more solo?
E: I usually walk with a friend. I like the company and it seems less like exercise.
S: How do you recover? Do you have a go-to recovery drink?
E: Just water.
S: Do you lead an otherwise healthy lifestyle? Eat healthy?
E: I try to eat healthy. Some days are more successful than others ;)
S: One last question Elise. What one or two things would you say gives you the most joy?
E: Looking at the sky, hearing my kids laugh, and time spent with the people I love.
S: That’s a great place to end it, thanks for your time today Elise. Your story illustrates how important it is to have a solid support group of family and friends during difficult periods in one’s life.
Stories of how cancer has affected people’s lives and loved ones are many. When we hear stories like Elise’s, it’s a reminder of how important having a strong support group of friends and family is during such difficult times. HopeWell is a very special place and we look forward to supporting them in the near future! You can donate to HopeWell Cancer Center and show your support for Elise and a wonderful non-profit organization!