Giving back is what motivated Kay O’Connell to begin helping out at the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation’s Northern Regional Center. Kay, 89 years young, wears many hats; wife, mom of 4, grandmother of 9, teacher and ECF volunteer for the past 31 years.
Kay’s service to ECF began in 1988, when she read an article in the local paper about a need for volunteers to help with packing and delivering snacks to families who had children with cancer. It was Thanksgiving time and Kay felt an overwhelming need to help. “I thought to myself, these families need our help….I can lend a hand.”
Early on, Kay would help pack the snacks in the garage of an ECF employee, where the ECF Pantry used to be housed, and then deliver the treats to the families. “A 4 year old little girl with leukemia, her mother had quit her job to stay home to take care of her daughter,” Kay remembered. “I delivered groceries to them weekly. I did not see the little girl a lot. But one day we visited and she had fuzz on her head and she was dancing around the house. Wonderful. And she loved Rice Krispies so I would save them for her as soon as they came in to the pantry.”
It is this attention to detail, this thoughtfulness and loyalty, that drives Kay to show up every Tuesday at ECF to manage the pantry and ensure that families receive the food, toys, and other essentials they need. The only time she missed work was when she lost her husband of 40 years, Robert. (Currently, her in-person volunteering is curtailed due to Covid-19 restrictions).
Kay will be honored at ECF’s Annual Charity Bash this year for her unwavering commitment to the families. “Over the years volunteering for ECF I’ve worked with many dedicated people,” she said. “We learned how to keep the chipmunks out of the rice when we worked from a garage, and when we were housed in an old bowling alley we adapted to the creaky, cage type elevator that gave us a thrilling and jerky ride every trip. We’ve come a long way since then, and I’m happy to be part of this dedicated and focused group.”
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Sr. Central Regional Director