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Hope for Heather creates Angel Fund at Upstate University Hospital

Hope for Heather recently presented a donation to Upstate University Hospital to start an Angel Fund to assist ovarian cancer patients with incidental expenses. Pictured from left are Toni Gary of Upstate, Terry Shenfield of Upstate, Gary and Frieda Weeks of Hope for Heather and Melissa Midgely.

Hope for Heather recently presented a donation to Upstate University Hospital to start an Angel Fund to assist ovarian cancer patients with incidental expenses. Pictured from left are Toni Gary of Upstate, Terry Shenfield of Upstate, Gary and Frieda Weeks of Hope for Heather and Melissa Midgely. Photo by Sarah Hall.

— “[Patients will get] gift cards for hotels, gas cards, because a lot of our patients come from far away. We cover a 17-county area, so if you’re coming in every day, that can really add up,” said Toni Gary, director of community relations for Upstate. “So gas cards, food cards, Morris’s cards so that they can get food from our cafeteria here, just about anything that the staff has deemed as something that can help them.”

Weeks had approached the hospital about making some kind of donation when she found out that the cancer center was being constructed, but she wasn’t sure how to put the money to use. It was Shenfield who suggested creating an Angel Fund.

“I jumped at this when Terry suggested this,” Weeks said. “We had originally thought about doing a naming opportunity, but when we found out about this, this would be something that she would really advocate for.”

Gary said that Hope for Heather has committed to giving $25,000 to the fund, $5,000 over the next five years.

The cancer center, a five-story expansion to Upstate University Hospital, is expected to open in mid to late 2013. The outpatient center will serve both pediatric and adult cancer patients as well as blood disorder patients from a 17- to 21-county area from as far south as the Pennsylvania border, as far north as the Canadian border, as far east as Utica and as far west as Rochester.

Though the cancer center is not yet online, the fund has already started helping ovarian cancer patients.

“We just had an ovarian cancer patient that we were able to give a gift card to [for gas] who lives out of town, and the expenses just mount up,” Weeks said. “Especially if someone’s not working and they have to pay $8 a day for the parking garage, their relatives have to eat, their dog has to be in the kennel — all of these expenses that we don’t really think about that are incurred besides their prescriptions, their treatment, their surgery.”

Weeks said she believed her daughter would think the Angel Fund was a step in the right direction.

“Heather would think this was a great thing to do, because she was a strong believer in really making a difference where it mattered, and sometimes tangible gifts are what matter, and people will remember that.”

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