When Northshore resident Sondra Wells won her battle with breast cancer in 2018, she knew she wanted to find a way to give back to the people who helped her become healthy again—Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center.
Sondra had a routine of getting an annual mammogram, but when she went in for her yearly check-up in December 2017 doctors found she had an aggressive form of breast cancer. Her care team at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center got started on treatment right away—just weeks after her diagnosis, Sondra had a partial mastectomy of her right breast. After that, she received 29 radiation treatments before being declared cancer free.
“I love the people at Mary Bird Perkins,” she says. “They have been like a family to me.”
So, when Sondra decided she wanted to give back, she began crocheting caps for other cancer patients who had lost their hair due to chemotherapy. “I stopped counting when I got to four hundred,” the 71-year-old says.
After three years of making caps and sourcing the materials herself, Sondra decided to try the neighborhood social networking app, Nextdoor, to call for scrap yarn donations in July 2021. “I made a promise to God that if I became cancer free, I would find a way to pay it back,” her original post reads.
The response blew her away. Sondra received an outpouring of support from her community—not only did people bring her extra yarn to use, they also brought brand new yarn to donate to the project.
But that turned out to be just the beginning. Far exceeding her expectations, Sondra says she started receiving messages from people wanting to provide financial support for materials, as well as more volunteers looking to join and help by giving their time.
Then, in September Sondra fell and broke her wrist. When she found that her injury meant she could no longer crochet for the time being, Crystal Bardwell and a group of local women offered to keep the project going while Sondra recovered.
Now, they’re not just crocheting enough caps for Mary Bird Perkins patients; the group is also crafting caps for residents in nursing homes, and looking to soon extend their efforts to the local VA hospital, along with area homeless shelters, Sondra says.
Sondra’s simple call for spare yarn spurred a chain reaction, showing that sometimes, all it takes to make a difference is a single person with a desire to help.
Learn more about preventative breast cancer care at marybird.org. To learn more about all the ways you can support Mary Bird Perkins, go to marybird.org/giving.