Jennifer’s Story (a now cancer-free 8-year-old girl)
Twas the week of Christmas, three Rotarians went on a trek to deliver gifts in a faraway land.
My husband, Geoff, and mother-in-law, Karen, delivered a truckload of plastic caps to Jennifer, an 8-year-old girl in Manzanillo, Mexico, who was just told she was now cancer-free. Her port had been removed for her leukemia treatments.
We held back tears as this beautiful child smiled at the sight of Christmas presents Karen was bringing her, as well as all these plastic lids. Why on Earth would a child be so excited by plastic lids? They helped save her life. Her parents, Geoff, Karen, and I all knew this little girl was alive because a group of people saved all their plastic lids to help the family pay for her cancer treatments over the last few years. There was no way a father who was a cab driver could have otherwise afforded the cost of the treatments. The project can and should be bigger. This is so easy, and this is how it began.
Karen Wilson, a Crossroads Rotary Club of Kitsap member, brought a project to us about three years ago that involved saving plastic caps for children’s cancer treatments in Manzanillo, Mexico. The collection of plastic caps started with a small group of retired US and Canadian residents who “winter” in this much warmer part of the world and found out that this helps low-income families pay for kid’s cancer treatments in Manzanillo. Karen has been going down to this area for decades, and has become a second home for her when she isn’t traveling to other destinations worldwide. We need your help.
My husband, Geoff (President of Crossroads), and I drove our F-150 to Manzanillo in December to enjoy six weeks of warmth. Manzanillo is 1,200 miles south of the US border on the Pacific Ocean. For those that have been to Puerto Vallarta, drive another 4.5 hours South. Our truck had our German Shepard, Max (his Instagram is maxwschmidt if you want to follow his adventures), and a full truckload of plastic caps. Our 2,800 mile journey took us through snow, ice, wind, desert, and finally, beautiful coastal palm tree landscapes. Later in January, our friends brought down four bins fully packed of lids via airplane, Darwin Husa, President-Elect of Crossroads, brought down a suitcase, and Karen had checked a suitcase or two. So, in total, we had 21 containers of lids equivalent to ~1,850 lbs. This effort resulted from our community-at-large savings lids, bringing them to meetings or dropping them off at our house over the last year, and didn’t end up in a landfill.
It’s a win-win.
This effort paid for treatment of one family’s financial costs. The Mexican Government and Hospitals pay for most of the cost for low-income families, but the families are ultimately financially responsible for a portion. A local recycling company has made an agreement with a Cancer Foundation for the exchange of lids for Cancer “cash .”It’s that easy.
Everyday we are talking about this program, it is exponentially growing (and it should). This is growing, and it should. We have young adults in our community, former Interact Members, that work for a couple of Starbucks locations, who are dropping lids off to our club, and now those locations are saving lids along with catching the attention of Store and District Managers. We need to improve the logistics of getting these lids down to Manzanillo.
Does anyone have connections in companies or organizations that could help us get these lids to the kids?
I am a changed woman after this trip. This was another Rotary moment for Geoff and me, inspiring us to make this bigger.