Thursday, March 13, 2008

Glenn Dale resident delivers comfort

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Greg Dohler⁄The Gazette
Denice Whalen-White (right) delivers blankets — hand-woven by her Glenn Dale-based nonprofit, All Shades of Pink — to Women’s Health Center’s Dr. Mary Lingebach (left) and nurse Bobbi Pearson at Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham on March 6.
Glenn Dale resident Denice Whalen-White has big plans to bring small acts of kindness to breast cancer patients at Doctors Community Hospital.

Whalen-White, who in September founded the Glenn Dale-based nonprofit All Shades of Pink, began delivering handmade pink and white comfort blankets this month for doctors and nurses at the Lanham hospital’s Women’s Health Center to distribute to breast cancer patients immediately after surgery.

The overall mission of All Shades of Pink is to assist women diagnosed with breast cancer with resource referrals, non-medical advice and emergency financial assistance, according to the nonprofit’s Web site.

The free blankets are meant to provide comfort to patients going through the post-surgery recovery process.

‘‘These small acts of kindness really make a difference in people’s lives,” Whalen-White said. ‘‘When you get a pretty blanket like this at a difficult time, it really lifts the spirits.”

Whalen-White said starting this month, 12 blankets will be delivered to Dr. Mary Lingebach and nurse Bobbi Pearson at the hospital’s Women’s Health Center each month for the rest of this year so the two can distribute blankets to patients after surgery.

‘‘I think what they’re doing is just wonderful,” said Pearson, an Oncology Certified Nurse at the center. ‘‘These acts of kindness mean so much to the patients.”

Whalen-White said she and other volunteers have made 18 blankets so far. She said she tries to complete one blanket per week and is always on the lookout for people willing to lend a hand.

‘‘Making these blankets is a way for people to easily volunteer because it’s something they can do in their own home and at their own leisure,” Whalen-White said.

To help make blankets, the only tools needed are pink and white yarn and a love of crocheting, Whalen-White said. There is no stipulation that each comfort blanket be exactly alike, but a sample pattern and specifications for the blanket can be found on the nonprofit’s Web site that Whalen-White asks any potential volunteers to follow.

‘‘We want each blanket to be as unique as the person making them,” she said.

Whalen-White said once more volunteers are on board, she would like to expand the comfort blanket distribution to other hospitals. She mentioned Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring and Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis as possibilities.

Whalen-White said the nonprofit submitted an application in January to be set up as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, which is pending. She said right now the nonprofit, which currently has a three-member board and four regular volunteers, is soliciting donations from businesses and individuals in addition to working to find more volunteers to make comfort blankets.

Lanham resident Carolyn Barnes, a breast cancer survivor herself, is one of the four regular volunteers. Barnes said she met Whalen-White a year ago while working out at Curves International, a women’s fitness franchise with a location in Glenn Dale.

Barnes, a retiree who worked for 38 years at the Bureau of Natural Resources in Washington, D.C., had successful breast cancer surgery at Doctors in January 2003. She was the one who suggested that Doctors would be an ideal place to begin distributing the comfort blankets.

‘‘I knew that I wanted to help others in the same situation that I was in,” Barnes said. ‘‘I had a lot of support from my friends and family while I was going through my surgery and I want to be able to give support to others who need it.”

She said a comfort blanket is something she would have appreciated had she received one after her surgery.

‘‘I noticed that when I went through [chemotherapy] after my surgery, it was very cold in that room, so it’s good to have something to wrap yourself in,” Barnes said.

Pearson said she was glad Barnes was willing to help out other women as they go through their own breast cancer treatment.

‘‘I just think it’s so commendable that one of the first things she thought of is wanting to give back to others,” Pearson said. ‘‘It’s really wonderful when survivor volunteers are willing to give their time and effort to help others.”

Whalen-White, who has not been diagnosed with breast cancer, said that in addition to the comfort blanket initiative, the nonprofit has plans to begin two other programs by this summer, an emergency assistance program and a program she calls Kids Night Out.

The emergency assistance program will consist of the nonprofit paying up to $750 for a breast cancer patient’s utility bill that is close to being suspended.

Whalen-White said the emergency assistance program would be able to aid only four or five families this year as the fledgling nonprofit continues to generate money.

‘‘Our goal right now is to bring in as much money as we can so we can help out as many families as we can,” she said. ‘‘We really want to be able to help these people keep up with everything.”

Kids Night Out will consist of the nonprofit providing the families of breast cancer patients with $50 gift certificates to restaurants and movie theatres.

The nonprofit will hold a silent auction from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26 at Camelot of Upper Marlboro, located at 13901 Central Avenue. Tickets are $45 per person or two for $80. Proceeds from the silent auction will benefit the All Shades of Pink Emergency Assistance Fund.

E-mail Jonathan Stein at