Local business owner gives back to help families with children impacted by cancer

By Stuart Hedstrom 
Staff Writer

    DOVER-FOXCROFT — A pair of prize packages to tie in with Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day were both donated by Joy Gregory, a florist who owns Chloe’s Collections Florist & Gift Shoppe on Route 150 in Parkman to the Helping Hands organization at the SeDoMoCha School. The items donated by Gregory were raffled off to benefit a pair of families who are part of the SeDoMoCha community, each of which has a child coping with cancer.

    “It is important for me to do this,” Gregory, who has worked for 26 years as an oncology nurse in both the hospital and through hospice case management, said. “There are so many stressors for these people, it is not just the emotional burdens but the financial burdens and they need help.”
    Gregory said she wants to promote fundraising by area businesses to aide families in the area whose children are fighting cancer. “It doesn’t have to much, an idea can be small and it can grow,” she said.
    After reading about Raven Nally, a grade 8 student at SeDoMoCha who is undergoing treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancerous bone tumor affecting children, Gregory contacted the school about doing a fundraiser to assist the family. Nally has been undergoing treatments in Bangor with travel required to and from the hospital.
    “We have a local florist who contacted us and really wanted to help,” special education teacher Pat Suomi said about Gregory. Suomi said Gregory donated a dozen roses and a box of chocolate-covered strawberries, worth about $75 together. “We had a raffle and raised $196,” Suomi said, saying that everyone involved was very appreciative of the support. The roses and chocolate raffle was conducted at SeDoMoCha, with Jacob Ireland purchasing the winning ticket.
    “For me it was quite touching to see the community reach out and help,” she said. “(Gregory) really believes in community and giving back.”
    Gregory was not done assisting the SeDoMoCha Helping Hands, a part of the school community working to help families in need, as she donated items for another benefit raffle. A “starter garden for Mom” raised funds for 3-year-old Natalie Healey, daughter of Dawn and Ken Healey of Charleston and sister of a grade 4 student at SeDoMoCha Elementary. Healey has been diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer affecting the muscles, and she has undergone two surgeries to date and continues to receive chemotherapy treatments.
    On May 10, the Friday before Mother’s Day, the starter garden was raffled off. The approximate $100 merchandise value was comprised of three flats, with each flat consisting of a half dozen trays and each tray holding six to eight plants. The starter plants included florals, such as petunias, marigolds, pansies and Dusty Millers, and vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, leeks, celery, lettuce and onions. Deidra Burdin of Sebec won the “starter garden for Mom” prize package and $384 was raised for the Healey family.
    “I have never met these kids,” Gregory said, but she said she thinks of them quite often and what they and their families are going through. “It is good to do something on this side to lighten the load for someone who you know is fighting a tough battle.”
    In mid-March Chloe’s Collections Florist & Gift Shoppe was the site of a Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce Cash Mob, where members of the community show up at a recently announced business ready to spend money to shop at a locally-owned establishment to support small business and stimulate the local economy.
    The Cash Mob at Chloe’s Collections Florist & Gift Shoppe served as a fundraiser for the Aliza Jean Family Cancer Foundation, as a portion of the event proceeds were given to the foundation that provides financial and emotional support for Maine families who have children diagnosed with brain cancer. The foundation is named for Aliza Jean Stutzman, daughter of Craig and Karen Stutzman of Harmony who lost her to brain cancer in January. Aliza Jean’s spirit and memory are being carried on through the foundation that bears her name.
    “I was thrilled to help out with that with the Cash Mob,” Gregory said. “I know those families are going through hard times. For me personally, it is a way of giving back. It is definitely therapeutic.”
    Gregory said she is “trying really, really hard,” to get other Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce members involved in supporting the Aliza Jean Foundation and other benefits for the families of young cancer patients as she believes business owners not only have the responsibility of good customer relations and guaranteed quality but also to give back where it can help the most.
    She said the ways to give back may not necessarily have to be as involved as some may think, as “just a little bit can enable people to do a lot.”

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