Chelsea O’Dell, from Chilliwack, with a few items to be included in a comfort bag through Feather & Rose Support Bags. The bags are given out to people across the province who are going through cancer treatment. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

Woman sends support bags to cancer patients across province

Chilliwack woman’s efforts inspired by late mother-in-law’s generous spirit

Chelsea O’Dell knows that the greatest gift you can give someone undergoing cancer treatment, is comfort.

She learned this through watching her mother-in-law, Dana O’Dell, who happily shared comfort among fellow chemotherapy patients while being treated for colon cancer. Despite her own challenges, Dana had taken it upon herself to gather and distribute essentials that help through treatment. Inspired when meeting a young woman going through treatment alone, she sourced out items like cozy socks and slippers, handmade toques, organic skin products, and even handwritten notes of love and support. She sorted them into bags and left them with clinic nurses, who gave them out for her, anonymously.

Dana passed away Christmas Eve, 2016, but her legacy of giving remains an inspiration. As a blogger and life coach, Dana wrote in detail about her experiences with cancer on her website, The Beautiful Real. Now, both her words and her acts of giving are being kept alive through the hard work of family members.

Chelsea has launched a venture called Feather and Rose Support Bags. Her mission is “to help patients in their darkest times with care packages from the community. Shining some light, one person at a time.”

It’s a direct homage to Dana’s spirit of giving comfort to those who need it most. Just like Dana, she is sourcing out safe, comforting items to give to people who are in cancer treatment. The idea had been in her heart since Dana passed away, but it took a moment of missing her mother-in-law that spurred Chelsea into action.

“I started (Feather & Rose) on March 1…” Chelsea says. “I’ve been thinking about this for awhile but I never took the plunge. I told myself it won’t go anywhere, it will take a lot of donations, it will be a lot of work.”

But earlier this year she was let go from a part-time job, and went there directly to visit a family member at the Abbotsford Hospital.

“I wished I had her there,” she remembers thinking. “My mother-in-law would have had so much advice for me. I realized I was staring at the B.C. Cancer Centre.”

She took it as a sign, and posted a query in a Facebook group for people who make handmade items, to gauge interest. She got more than 300 comments, almost immediately.

Since then, she’s put together more than two dozen bags, filled with items that have either been donated or purchased at cost. People have been donating from all the province, but mostly Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley. And requests have begun to trickle in as well, also from across B.C.

Through her new connections, people she has met and written back and forth with, she’s learned that what feels so natural to her is not common at all in his province.

“There’s nothing like this,” she says. “Why? “Why is this so new?”

She’s been happily overwhelmed with the support she’s received from small businesses, and is eager to gather more donations to create even more support bags. The list is ever growing, but includes Meraki Skin Care, Aromatica Fine Teas, Linda’s Aromatherapie, Radiance Reflexology, Urban Baby Apparel, Wild Heart Emporium, Craft Delight, The Bookman, Jikiden Reiki with Mari, and many more.

The items include gift cards for services, such as photography, reiki healing, and even for a henna crown session for those who have lost their hair through chemotherapy.

All of the items she’s collected so far have been focused on cancer treatment, and the majority of people who have connected with her have been female patients and their family or friends. But there have been other requests too, such as for a little girl with a rare disease in Mission. Chelsea is also hoping to fill a need for comfort bags for those with mental health issues.

She has partnered with a few other organizations, including those for the Gone Country Cancer Fundraiser taking place in Surrey this summer. She has been raffling off tickets they provided to her, and has put some into comfort bags for those who may want them. Chelsea has also been going through the steps to become a non-profit charitable organization, in order to grow and be able to provide the service for even more people.

In the meantime, she’s fundraising the old-fashioned way. Next up, she and her family will be holding a fundraising garage sale at 45086 Stevenson, on the big Chilliwack Community Yard Sale Day, May 5. Anyone wishing to donate to the cause is encouraged to pop by their sale, enter a raffle for tickets to Gone Country, learn more about Feather & Rose, or of course, purchase items for sale.

Those wanting to donate items to the garage sale are welcome to contact Feather & Rose through their Facebook site or email Chelsea at featherandrose@outlook.com.

“I’m so passionate about this cause,” Chelsea says. “I’m just bursting at the seams to share it with everyone.”

 

Dana O’Dell’s generous spirit has inspired her daughter-in-law to continue on with a support bag mission O’Dell began while going through chemotherapy herself. (Submitted)

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