Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Imerman Angels offers cancer support November 5, 2017

Filed under: Cancer Tips — Heather @ 3:08 pm
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HH_cancersurvivorshirt

Supporting cancer survivors is important.

Between the turn of a calendar month and Michigan’s recent weather, there’s no denying the end of the year is coming. Besides the holidays, this time of year also means many people might be thinking of giving to charities. There’s still plenty of time to support great charities and get a tax deduction. It’s a win-win!

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In my series featuring some of my favorite nonprofits, I’m next focusing on Imerman Angels. This nonprofit provides one on one support to cancer survivors with any type of cancer, at any stage, any gender, age, living anywhere in the world. Imerman Angels pairs up a cancer survivor who has completed treatment (Mentor Angel) with someone seeking support. This free mentor service offers “the chance to ask personal questions and receive support from someone who is uniquely familiar with the experience.” Support is also offered to cancer caregivers and those who have lost someone to cancer. With a database of thousands of cancer survivors and caregiver from around the world, the Chicago-based organization strives to match people with as similar cancer types, stages, treatment and situations as possible. With technology, no need to be local to each other.

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The founder, Jonny Imerman, is originally from Michigan and it’s an honor to call him a friend. Jonny is a young adult cancer survivor who is one of the nicest people I know. Seriously, his heart is huge and full of kindness. And the cool thing is that everyone I’ve met associated with Imerman Angels has the same qualities.

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I learned about Imerman Angels several years after I finished my own treatment for bone cancer. Jonny and I crossed paths when I was involved with another nonprofit (the cancer world can be small and well-connected so it wasn’t a surprise we eventually met). I loved learning about the organization’s purpose, and was impressed that Imerman Angels has fine-tuned its mission and values to become one of the leading one on one cancer support nonprofits in the world. I registered to become a Mentor Angel within hours of talking to Jonny. These connections inspire, motivate and touch my heart more than they could know. I remember all too well the emotions and day by day journey that cancer takes you through. The journey doesn’t stop when you finish treatment.

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The organization’s core values provide a glimpse into the heart of the people involved. My favorite is: “Be humble. Cancer is an equalizer. There’s no room for ego in the cancer fight.” These words are SO very true. Cancer has no mercy on who is touched. I am certain every one of you personally knows that.

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I’m committed to this organization and their services because I know firsthand how valuable and comforting it is to know others have not only been through similar circumstances, but also survived. Cancer is terrifying. It’s uncertain, emotionally challenging, mentally draining and physically commanding, no matter your cancer type or treatment protocol. Even if you’re fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends to support your journey, as I was, it’s still a little isolating and lonely.

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Those I’ve met through Imerman Angels don’t of course have exactly the same cancer stories as me, because no two stories are the same. No two treatment options work the exact same or affect each person the same. A drug that made me puke for days may not make another nauseous at all, or vice versa. But it’s still comforting to be able to connect with others who faced the same treatment protocol, and most importantly, understand the whirlwind of emotions constantly circulating through your head. As I’ve mentioned before, cancer is the one thing I think of daily for the past 20 years. It shaped who I am, often affects my physical decisions, and drives me to help others.

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If you are a cancer survivor and/or caregiver to someone facing cancer, consider becoming a Mentor Angel. Your experiences can truly make a difference to someone needing support. If you have been touched by cancer, as a survivor or caregiver, and need support, I encourage you to reach out to this organization. And if you are feeling generous, please donate.

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Galloping into the giving season November 1, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons,Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 9:00 am
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Shecky_HH

Visiting Horses’ Haven is inspiring.

As the year begins to wind down (where did time go?), it’s an important time for nonprofits that work year round to make a difference in our lives. From fighting diseases to protecting nature and animals to helping people with food and shelter, thousands of charities rely heavily on the generosity and kindness of others.

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I hope you’re considering a year-end, tax-deductible donation to a charity, if you haven’t already donated. I’ve written much about various charities over the years, those that touch my heart and I personally donate to and volunteer for as I support their mission, programs and services. Since November and December are big months for charitable giving, I wanted to provide an overview of some of my favorite charities. To be frank, there are so many that I could probably write posts every week all year!

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I’ll kick off November with the lovable animal charity, Horses’ Haven. Horses Haven is a local organization that rescues horses, donkeys and other animals who are abused, neglected, unwanted, aged or whose owners can no longer afford to keep them.

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Horses have ranked, along with dogs, as my favorite animal since I can remember. I think “horse” was one of the first words I spoke as a child. After years of begging my parents, they finally let me take riding lessons when I was 9 years old. I still remember dancing around the house singing “I’m so excited” by the Pointer Sisters.

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For the next 13 years, I lived and breathed horses. My first trainer spotted my talent for handling horses and riding so invited me to work at the barn every Saturday for a few hours to earn riding time. I rode hunter/jumpers, having no fear of riding a horse jumping 3’-5’ fences or riding the high-energy, mischievous horses. I switched barns when I was 15 to ride with a trainer who pushed me a bit more. I never owned my own horse, however, always had requests to ride others’ horses for lessons and at horse shows.

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When I went to college, I couldn’t get home often enough to ride at my regular bar so found a farm that bred and trained Quarter Horses near the university. I offered to work around the barn in exchange for riding opportunities. The owner happily accepted so I spent the next four years learning much about training horses. I loved spring time when the new colts and fillies would run around the pastures. Nothing brought a smile to my face faster. When I was 21, near the end of my senior year, I got a job exercising racehorses for a local trainer. It was at this farm that I finally stopped ignoring the growing pain in my left knee. I went to a walk-in clinic near school and discovered my bone cancer.

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Shecky52010

Such a handsome boy.

It changed everything. As scared as I was with the cancer diagnosis, I was devastated at the idea of not riding again. Since my knee and femur were to be replaced with titanium, I could very much jeopardize my leg if I fell off a horse. Despite that fear, I decided to try riding for pleasure after I finished chemo. I didn’t have the previous carefree attitude, however, I was thrilled to be back in the saddle. I unfortunately had to soon replace my titanium rod again after a fall at work and my surgeon said I would have to decide – continue to ride and risk losing my leg in a fall from a horse or stop riding.

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It wasn’t much of a choice of course. I was blessed and grateful to still have my leg. But I took giving up horses very hard. I became a little bitter and angry toward cancer, and hated those feelings. I cut my favorite animals from my life – sold my tack, took down pictures, gave away books and movies. I thought it was easier. For so many years of my life, horses were my escape from school, peer pressure, work and life in general. I relaxed the moment I crossed into the barn. I could stand in a stall with a horse, run my fingers through his mane, rest my cheek against his shoulder and enjoy minutes of peaceful quiet. I lived for these moments. And cancer took it away.

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About 10 years ago I decided to get those feelings back. I found Horses Haven. I attended one of their farm tours and felt an odd pull like I had come home. Horses Haven began in 1995 and is completely volunteer run – no paid staff at all. That fact still amazes me when you consider how much time and energy goes into feeding, watering, cleaning stalls/pastures, taking care of many animals who often have health issues, and just ensuring these well-deserving animals feel love. Dedicated volunteers work in shifts throughout the day, every day, to keep the farm running and the animals taken care of.

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HH_Sheckyheadshot3 1009

Horses have been my passion since childhood.

I often wanted to volunteer to help at the barn, however, the farm isn’t very close to my home and my schedule fairly full so I decided to sponsor a horse – basically my monthly financial support helped take care of him.  I sponsored Shecky, a gorgeous chestnut Thoroughbred, for many years. He was neglected when Horses Haven first rescued him years ago, then adopted by a great family. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep him so he returned to Horses Haven. He had bad knees at that point so couldn’t be ridden. I thought we were a perfect pair with my rod that prevented me from riding. He enjoyed a relaxing life with his pasture mates until he died (of old age) two years ago. I loved visiting him, and all the other horses. They each have special stories, of overcoming the odds. Some from neglect and abuse, others from kind owners who could no longer support them.

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There are many ways to support Horses’ Haven – volunteer regularly, on their farm work days or special events, sponsor a horse as I did, donate to the general fund, provide items from the wish list. Some of the horses are available for adoption as companion animals or for riding.

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This volunteer organization makes a wonderful impact on the lives of the animals they support and provide shelter and love to. Donate today.

 

Year-end donations help charities provide important programs December 28, 2014

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 3:39 pm
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My parents raised my sisters and me to appreciate what we have and understand how fortunate we were to have a nice home, soft beds, clothes, access to good education, full stomachs and people who loved us. Thanks to their direction, I’m a firm believer that if you’re able to, you should give back to those less fortunate and your community. And, frankly, we’re all able to in some way, whether through time or money. I love to volunteer at local organizations, especially those that touched my life. Cancer organizations are an obvious choice; however, I also love to help at our church, schools, and any animal-related organization. My husband and I plan to spend more of our time volunteering in the community in the new year.

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We also feel great gratitude that we both have good paying jobs that allow us to save money each paycheck. With that in mind, we donate financially to local charities throughout the year. There are so many charities to consider. I listed a few that I’m involved with or are familiar with. Now is a perfect time to donate money as you’re still able to get a tax-donation for 2014!

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CampCaseytrailer_frontCamp Casey – I know I’ve shared information on this great organization a few times this year. Camp Casey provides a horseback riding experience to children with cancer and sickle-cell anemia through several different programs. The most popular, and my favorite, are Horsey House Calls, which bring a horse to the home of a child, whether in the suburbs, city or country. We provide rides, pizza, crafts and great fun! This nonprofit is run very efficiently.

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Imerman Angels – I love the mission of this organization that connects a cancer survivor (mentor angel) with someone in treatment or recently completed with treatment. I remember going through treatment and wishing to meet a young adult bone cancer survivor to give me advice and support.

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Wounded Warriors Project – This organization serves to honor and support our veterans and service members who were injured during their service to our country. Several programs are offered at no charge to these ‘warriors’ and their families, focusing on mind, body, financial and engagement.

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Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial – My husband and I walk by the sign for this future memorial quite often as it’s near our home. It will serve as Michigan’s official tribute to our state’s contributions during this war. I think it will be amazing to have such a special place to visit close to home once it’s built. The planners are accepting donations to help with the construction and maintenance – you can make a general donation or purchase a brick to honor someone.

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dino_1Cranbrook Institute of Science, Greenfield Village and other cultural institutions – You may think that admission fees cover the costs of maintaining and operating these amazing cultural institutions that showcase history, art, education and science, but there are still gaps in finances. Particularly for special programs, such as exhibits, research, and educational opportunities.

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Horses Haven – This volunteer-run organization provides a home for neglected or forgotten horses and donkeys. While they try to adopt out as many horses as possible, many are permanent residents at the farm. Raising horses isn’t cheap so all donations help support these amazing, sweet animals. You can also sponsor a horse for a low monthly fee, which includes visits with your new friend.

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What charities do you support?

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Don’t forget to make your financial donation by Dec. 31 to get the tax benefits…..so many people and animals will benefit from your generosity.

 

 
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