By Sherri Coner
It all began with Karen.
Because of this young woman’s beautiful spirit and her love for life, the Karen Wellington Foundation continues to keep alive Karen’s passion for chasing and embracing pure joy.
Diagnosed with breast cancer at 30 years old, this strong wife and mother of two young children fought to squeeze all kinds of wonderful experiences, adventures and memories into her life and the lives of those she cherished.
Sadly, Karen’s life ended when she was 40 years old.
In her memory, the foundation launched in 2007, soon after her death.
A SWEET SPIRIT’S MESSAGE LIVES ON
The objective is simple but filled with only the purest of sweet intentions.
Volunteers strive to give women with breast cancer an opportunity to leave all the pink behind for a while so they can simply be in a happy place, with those who add to their happiness.
By networking with giving people who donate their vacation homes for a week, donate airline miles or provide cash for some shopping and dining out, the foundation is a salve for the female spirit during a very challenging time.
Women like Najala Wallace of Castleton can step away from chemotherapy or radiation or other forms of treatment to simply take a break.
Along with her husband, her mother, mother-in-law and her 2-year-old daughter Jordan, Najala relaxed for a week in a generously provided vacation home in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. She played in the sand with her baby, walked the beach with her husband and enjoyed the peaceful sunsets, reenergizing for a return to breast cancer treatment.
Every time these peaceful, joyful experiences are provided for women with breast cancer, the magic of Karen lives on.
According to Katie Elbisser, executive director, the foundation now includes 10 states and 16 ambassador cities.
NO WOMAN LEFT OUT
But no woman is excluded.
“We have the capacity to give anywhere,” Elbisser said of women who live outside those 10 states.
The Indianapolis chapter, open since 2018, “will reach over 750 women this year,” said Wendy Haskell, chapter lead for Indianapolis. “And we will reach 1,000 women next year. “
Thanks to vacation home donors in various locations, the foundation has provided women and their families with trips to Hilton Head, S.C., lake cabins in Tennessee and homes in Hawaii.
Obviously, not all women are free to travel or physically; they are fragile.
No problem at all, Haskell said.
A spa day or a relaxing massage, maybe an evening of fine dining may be a better fit for some women.
PERSONALIZED CREATIVE OUTLETS
During the pandemic, Haskell and her team of fellow volunteers got even more creative.
“We call it a gift of fun,” she said. “And it’s completely customized for each woman and how she is feeling. We have given away anything from a concert to a day at the zoo. One woman wanted to do silversmithing, so we arranged that. It’s all very personalized.”
Many volunteers are like Haskell; they have experienced cancer in their family or friendship circle, or they are breast cancer survivors themselves.
“We don’t want breast cancer to define them,” Haskell said. “These women need something to look forward to, and they also need some time just to be women.”
To read the touching memorial for Karen, written by her husband, Ken, and to learn more about the foundation, to nominate a woman you know with breast cancer, to become a volunteer or to donate, visit karenwellingtonfoundation.org