According the National Cancer institute, nearly 15 million people in 2014 were living with cancer of some sort. With those kind of numbers, just about every American knows someone or is someone impacted by the disease. It is important to give hope to the people and families touched by cancer, and that is why Strack and Van Til worked with Phil’s Friends to create care packages for cancer patients on Friday.
Phil’s Friends, founded by a two-time cancer survivor named Phil Zielke, provides hand-packed care packages filled with comforting, practical, and entertaining items like blankets, crossword puzzles, socks and more. Paulette Marczewski, Hobart Strack and Van Til’s Store Director, first heard about Phil’s Friends from her niece who had made care packages and collected items to fill them. She knew that it was a cause that was critical to support.
“Everybody is affected by cancer,” said Marczewski. “Both they’ve had it themselves or know someone impacted by it. These care packages that make those people’s lives better are great."
Every helping hand makes a difference to a project like Phil’s Friends. Marczewski jumped at the chance to get the employees of Strack and Van Til's Hobart location involved, knowing that it would lead to more and more volunteers down the line.
“It’s like a pay-it-forward kind of thing,” she explained. “When one person sees what’s going on, they tell others about it. It’s like a chain reaction; one of my employees is thinking about bringing their youth group here.”
Nearly 30 members of the Strack and Van Til family volunteered their time, from the employees themselves to their spouses, sons, daughters, and other relatives. Jason Pena, employee of Strack and Van Til and a church, loved what they saw of Phil’s Friends.
“This cause is essential because so many people are impacted by the disease,” said Pena. “It can be easy to say, ‘It’s too big of an issue for me to do anything. I’m one person - what can I do?’ You might be one person, but you need to do what you can. Stuff like this can encourage people and that’s what matters.”
The volunteers put together fleece blankets, drew art on care packages, signed and colored letters, and more. The packages will later be shipped all across the country, where they will plant seeds of hope for cancer patients in all stages of their battles. Many of the people involved with Phil’s Friends are cancer survivors themselves, and seeing companies like Strack and Van Til jump in and support them is deeply important to them.
“I’m a cancer survivor," said Jan Rattazzi, Volunteer Group Leader at Phil’s Friends. “When I saw something related to cancer, I went ‘I want to do that!’ Seeing all these people get involved is wonderful. I have many friends who have cancer, and just knowing they’re being supported is beautiful.”