For senior Gaby Vinick, what started out as a way to show support to family members undergoing chemotherapy turned into a commitment and to helping others.
Vinick started her program, ChemoConnect, in 2013. Inspired by her mother’s co-worker who was alone during the process of chemotherapy, Vinick decided to create the program. “I couldn’t imagine having to endure cancer, let alone undergo a painful treatment alone, so I started thinking of different items that would make the treatment more bearable,” Vinick said. “I met with Shady Grove Hospital, whose chemotherapy infusion program agreed to accept the packages I wanted to create.”
Working alongside her aunt, Vinick worked to develop a website for the program and emailed members of the National Cancer Association to raise donations. In her life, Vinick has known family friends to have been diagnosed with any form of cancer, therefore she takes this project “very personally,” she said.
According to her website chemoconnect.com, it is a program that provides support for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment. While partnering with the Adventist HealthCare Organization at Shady Grove Medical center, Vinick organizes “ChemoConnect Care Kits” to patients. The kits include stress balls to alleviate effects from pain, lip balm to help damaged skin and nails, antibacterial wipes to help with exposure to germs, fuzzy socks and hats to keep patients warm, puzzles and games to make the time pass during treatment and herbal tea to manage nausea. “Each item in the kit is carefully chosen to help pass the time during treatment or make it a little more comfortable for patients,” Vinick said.
Although she runs the program by herself, inspiration came from her aunt Debbie who has Down syndrome. Her aunt started her own charity walk called “Strides to Thrive,” which takes place in the summer in Rio. This event is staged to raise money for both her and other adults with disabilities to participate in fun activities they often do not have money to take part in. “I am inspired by what my aunt does, and it definitely went into my decision to start ChemoConnect,” Vinick said.
Along with running ChemoConnect, Vinick balances her life as a teenager. As a member of the varsity poms squad and participant in other clubs such as NHS and senior planning, Vinick finds herself juggling many responsibilities. “I think it is really admirable what she is doing,” senior Sara Hodes said. “I am very proud of the way she takes time to do things that are important to her, and dedicate an equal amount of time to each.”
To others hoping to follow in Vinick’s footsteps and start an organization like ChemoConnect, Vinick urges others to start early and to balance their time. Although the work is time consuming and can be hard, “it is worthwhile,” she said. “I think having a website and advertising and reaching out to your community is extremely helpful, but also it is important to welcome change.”
To learn how to get involved with the organization, check out Vinick’s website ChemoConnect.com for more information.