How one registered student organization at MSU seeks to comfort child cancer patients
It’s a medical diagnosis that nobody wants to give, and it’s a medical diagnosis that nobody wants to receive.
You have cancer.
But for millions of people across the United States, a cancer diagnosis is no unimaginable scenario: in 2016, about 595,690 people in the U.S. died from the disease, according to statistics from the National Cancer Institute. Millions of people face a struggle with cancer every day, and for many of them, the disease strikes at the core of their relationships between family and friends.
For Hannah Brunson, the gravity of such a diagnosis is all too real. It has not been directed to herself, but to several of her own loved ones.
One MSU student’s idea
Brunson, a senior kinesiology major at MSU, has witnessed several of her family members undergo chemotherapy and other treatments for cancer-related issues. For her, these experiences were eye-opening to the exhausting, sometimes unsuccessful recovery process that comes with cancer.
“I’ve had a lot of former family go through cancer, but I’ve never really understood how they felt or the procedures that they had to go through,” Brunson said. “I remember taking one of my family members to a chemotherapy appointment, and they just sit there while they get the treatment.”
In those moments, the weight of such procedures didn’t affect Brunson in the way that it does now.
“I didn’t really think anything of it at that point, 'cause I think I was about maybe 16, or 18, one of those ages,” Brunson recalled.
Her outlook would later undergo a change, specifically during her career at MSU. In her sophomore year at MSU, Brunson — a Detroit and Grosse Pointe, Michigan native — says that she felt a call to action for those who are dealing with cancer.
“My sophomore year of college, we had to write an essay about how we wanted to impact not just MSU ... I can't remember what the prompt was, but what do you want to do before you die basically, how do you want to impact the whole world, what career do you want to go into,’” Brunson said. “So then I just started writing about how I wanted to make an impact on people with cancer.”
The Hope Movement’s purpose
In 2016, Brunson created the Hope Movement, a nonprofit MSU registered student organization, or RSO. According to Brunson, the Hope Movement hopes to bring support to individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer.
“Originally, the Hope Movement started about how I wanted to make an impact on campus, and how I wanted to spread positivity, but I felt like that was just a broad statement, so I focused more on cancer and how I could make a difference on their lives,” Brunson explained.
Brunson described how she then concentrated the purpose of the organization to focus on one particular sect of cancer patients. Comforting a child, she thought, could be done simply, so she worked on an idea to develop care packages for an individual child. Such packages, she said, would contain items that the child could take advantage of in order to comfort them from the reality of their cancer treatment.
“We narrowed it down more to kids with cancer,” Brunson said. “I felt as though they need some type of distraction to — of course they know they have cancer, but just to distract them from the chemotherapy as they’re getting it. So that’s the main reason why we started.”
Brunson explained what the packages usually contain.
“In each package, we have a picture of ourselves, and just a note telling them about us, and how we can relate to them in some way,” she said. “They usually contain a blanket, a coloring book, coloring pencils, and then it has a picture of the person who gave it to them with a note. This semester, we have a list of specific wants of the child, so we have their age, and what they have interests in. This year we’re a little more personalized with our packages.”
Kayla Taylor, a senior who studies psychology at MSU, said that she initially learned of the organization from Brunson. To Taylor, Brunson’s concept of giving care packages to cancer patients was familiar.
“My mom was actually diagnosed with breast cancer before I came to school,” Taylor said. “One day when I was with her, when she was getting her chemotherapy treatment, someone actually brought in a package for her.”
Taylor, who is now the vice president of the Hope Movement, described how Brunson’s idea first made her want to find out more about the organization.
“When I came to school, I saw Hannah was doing it as well, but it was for children, and I remembered how happy my mom was receiving her package. … So that’s another reason why I wanted to get involved,” Taylor said.
The Hope Movement’s future
During the spring semester of 2016, Brunson fully set her plans into motion. However, she says that her organization’s efforts were hindered by the fact that they could not personally deliver the packages to the children.
“Last semester, we created the packages, and we just dropped them off at the children’s hospital,” said Brunson. “The thing about that process was we never got any feedback about how the kids enjoyed it.”
This semester, Brunson says that her organization will now be able to personally deliver the packages to children, but she now faces a dilemma.
“I think that last year, we had a really big turnout for our first time, but people dropped off because they realized we weren’t personally delivering the packages,” she said. “Now that we’re actually doing it, we don’t have people to deliver them, so that’s our issue.”
As of 2017, the Hope Movement partners with Bronson Children’s Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to personally deliver their packages to children affected by cancer.
Brunson said that the organization, which currently consists of about 10 people, is always looking to accept new members to assist in its cause of bringing comfort to child cancer patients. She knew what she would say to encourage her fellow MSU peers to join the Hope Movement.
“You get that sense that you’re actually making a direct impact on someone’s life,” Brunson said.
Taylor added her thoughts to what she would say to those who were seeking to find out more about the Hope Movement and its purpose.
“I would definitely say come out,” she said. “The most rewarding thing is just seeing the children’s faces when you actually give them the care packages. It’s a very rewarding experience.”