#42 "We are all in this together"
This past winter Grounds of Change interviewee #42 was getting dozens of boxes delivered to her house. The boxes were full of blankets and totes. There were so many deliveries that her husband, Mr. Hallman, felt the need to explain why they were getting so many deliveries to their overloaded postman. When he did, the postman said, “Thank you! You don’t understand how much this means to people!”
My interview was with Mrs. Hallman, the founder of the Chemo Comfort Care Totes Project. This blog is extra special because Mrs. Hallman was my 7th grade Science teacher. Teachers always have the ability to bring their classrooms together, but Mrs. Hallman is also bringing her community together.
Those boxes delivered to the Hallman residence were full of blankets, water bottles, journals, coloring books, candies, lotions, fuzzy socks and lip balms. All of these items were going to be put into tote bags for patients battling cancer at Arnold Palmer Cancer Centers in East Huntingdon, Unity, North Huntingdon, and AHN Hempfield.
Like all of us, Mrs. Hallman had many experiences that led her to be the person she is today. She shared two of those with me that I think may have been particularly relevant to the Chemo Comfort Care Totes Project. First, her mom always taught her about giving back. In fact, when Mrs. Hallman was a child, her mom felt she was being ungrateful. So, her mom took six- year-old Holly along with her as she delivered gifts to people in need during Christmas time. Even at age six, she was able to understand the importance of giving back. The second experience (or more accurately, experiences) was Mrs. Hallman’s participation in athletics. She had been part of many sports teams which had worked together to accomplish goals. She experienced what can be achieved when a group of people share the same vision.
Giving back is something she teaches in her classroom, and she has always encouraged her students to participate in community projects. In 2017, it was time for Mrs. Hallman to lead her own project - the Chemo Comfort Care Totes. She started it because she knew that Cancer touches everyone. So, she recruited her husband, the basketball team he coached, and a few sponsors to come together to make 56 bags to deliver to patients going through chemotherapy.
Mrs. Hallman was moved by the nurse’s tears when the first set of totes was delivered. Those nurses watch people day in and day out battle cancer, and sometimes the patients fight the battle alone without a support system by their side. Mrs. Hallman decided that day she would become part of that support system. This project was not going to end.
Chemo Comfort Care Totes just finished its third year. Local high school sports teams donated their pink out night collections to purchase more items. Students from kindergarteners to seniors wrote inspirational quotes to include in the bags. Volunteer families packed the totes. All of these team members pitched in, and this year 415 totes were delivered to patients in the community.
So, what can we learn from Mrs. Hallman? We can learn that the famous High School Musical phrase, We Are All in this Together, can be applied to every community. To become a successful project, Chemo Comfort Care Totes took a hardworking postman, students, family members, sports teams, volunteers, a Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/chemocomfortcaretotes/), and of course, the vision of a leader - my magical 7th grade Science teacher, Mrs. Hallman. What can your community do?