CLEVELAND — A new initiative called Wellness Without Walls that will support individuals and families coping with a cancer diagnosis is being launched at The Gathering Place, a nonprofit center that has been providing community-based cancer support in Greater Cleveland for 20 years.
Wellness Without Walls will provide free programs for people affected by cancer in the neighborhoods where they live through collaborations with hospitals and community organizations. Right now, The Gathering Place has locations in Westlake and Beachwood, and with this initiative, the staff hopes to expand their reach to those who are unable to get to the centers.
Karen Lipman Steiger, a volunteer for The Gathering Place, made a $250,000 donation that will be provided to the Gathering Place to support programs throughout various communities.
Steiger has been a volunteer since November 2018, and her mother, who passed away from Lymphoma, was one of the original supporters of The Gathering Place.
"I am making this gift in memory of my parents, Paul and Sandra Lipman and my sister, Susan, who died tragically in a car accident at the age of 21. My mother recognized early on the importance of having a community resource for those who are sick with cancer, grieving or taking care of a loved one,” Steiger said in a statement.
Eileen Saffran, founder and CEO of The Gathering Place, said the Wellness with Walls initiative, partially funded through the donation, will allow the staff at The Gathering Place to expand what they are doing inside the walls of the center to break out into the community and reach more people who are on the cancer journey.
"We know it can be very difficult for people to come into a suburban setting and so we want to make sure what we do is available to more and more people in the Greater Cleveland area," said Saffran.
Saffran said they hope to bring supportive services to people by way of a bigger presence in hospitals, centers, rural and urban areas through this initiative, which is slated to be rolled out over the next several years. She says they need to raise more funds first before they strategically build partnerships with the community.
"Whether it's in a hospital setting. It's in community centers. It's in rural. It's in urban. Again, that will be strategic on how we can use our resources best for the most people," Saffran said.
The Gathering Place is a safe place for individuals and families coping with cancer. The center offers a children's program, a young adult program, a medical library to interpret medical terms and treatment, and a healing arts program offering reiki, massage, and reflexology. There's also a wig salon, which provides free wigs, and a nutrition program.
Saffran says The Gathering Place is for every person, of every gender, race, socio-economic background, and age. It's for anyone on the cancer journey looking for support.
"People who have the courage to walk through our doors appreciate that this is a place where people understand," Saffran said. "There are no questions to be asked if someone is bald, disfigured, depressed or anxious. We have the staff that can deal with these types of circumstances. This is also a sense of community. It can be a very lonely going through a cancer journey. This is absolutely not a sad place. It's bright and cheerful."
An exact date for the launch of the new program was not given, but News 5 is told those patient services will be implemented gradually over the next couple of years.