2011-11-22 / Front Page

Foundation won’t let cancer ruin families’ Thanksgiving

BY DARREN FISHELL Times Record Staff


STEPHANIE PARKER, a patient at the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine in Brunswick, right, hugs Dean Snell Foundation treasurer Bruce Beaulieu after receiving a complete Thanksgiving dinner kit from the organization Monday afternoon. The organization handed out 20 Thanksgiving dinner baskets to MCCM patients Monday. 
DARREN FISHELL / THE TIMES RECORD STEPHANIE PARKER, a patient at the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine in Brunswick, right, hugs Dean Snell Foundation treasurer Bruce Beaulieu after receiving a complete Thanksgiving dinner kit from the organization Monday afternoon. The organization handed out 20 Thanksgiving dinner baskets to MCCM patients Monday. DARREN FISHELL / THE TIMES RECORD BRUNSWICK

Stephanie Parker said her family never would have asked for help.

When Parker’s husband was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, and a cancer diagnosis put her out of work, she said, the couple would have lost their home if they chose to pay for medical care.

“We wouldn’t have been able to get treatment,” Parker said.

But Parker and her husband were identified by nurses at the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine (MCCM) on the Mid Coast hospital campus as patients among the most deserving of help from the Dean Snell Cancer Foundation.

The foundation raises money to help patients at MCCM pay for costs associated with their care and basic necessities — ranging from travel expenses to heating oil and food — that would otherwise be bumped from the budget because of sudden health care expenses, according to the group’s founder, Sharon Snell.

When the nurses’ recommendation to help the Parkers came to the foundation’s board, it contained just a patient number, no names. In each case, that is how the board distributes its funds.

On Monday, the group’s help took on a much more personal tone. In the second year of its annual Thanksgiving donations, the foundation distributed 20 baskets — complete Thanksgiving dinner kits — to families facing financial and health hardship.

Parker, who was with the foundation members Monday to help hand out baskets, said it was “just phenomenal” to see others in need receiving Thanksgiving baskets.

“It’s wonderful to see people who are so thankful,” Parker said. “That’s what Thanksgiving is about.”

It is a feeling that Parker knows. The memory of being among 15 families to receive a basket as part of the program’s first year brought tears to her eyes.

“We were overwhelmed,” Parker said. “We wouldn’t have asked for help, but it was such a sigh of relief for us.”

Since the Dean Snell Foundation formed in 2009, foundation treasurer Bruce Beaulieu said, the nonprofit organization has distributed around $100,000 in aid to cancer patients at MCCM, based on recommendations from medical staff there.

Snell said she has scores of thank-you letters from those who have received help from the foundation.

As Beaulieu and Snell’s son, Dean Jr., loaded the Thanksgiving basket into Parker’s car, the exchange was more direct.

“Those are the people you love to help out,” Beaulieu said, walking back toward the hospital kitchen where another 15 baskets awaited recipients.

Snell, who started the foundation with her children shortly after her husband lost a 15- month battle with esophageal cancer, said she and her family committed to create something positive from the loss.

“It feels good to take that pain and loss and make something positive in my husband’s memory,” Snell said.

For more information about the organization, email deansnellcancerfoundation@gmail.com. Donations can be sent to The Dean Snell Cancer Foundation, P.O. Box 104, Brunswick, ME 04101. dfishell@timesrecord.com

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