Foundation Connects Breast Cancer Patients, Seniors with Home Care and Funding
Cheryl Kay Stawovy lost her life to breast cancer in 2013, but a foundation created in her name soon after has ensured that her legacy and life’s passion live on.
Also formed in 2013, the Pennsylvania-based Cheryl Kay Foundation has a mission to improve the quality of living and independence for senior citizens age 79 and older in financial need and for women battling breast cancer, according to its website, www.cherylkayfoundation.org.
Stawovy and her sister, Kathi Kay Lenhart, were co-owners of a successful medical waste-disposal company until 2008, when they decided to change course and become franchise owners of a local senior home-care company.
The sisters were moved and troubled by what they too often saw: seniors losing their quality of life and independence because they could not afford the out-of-pocket cost of in-home help but who don’t qualify for state assistance. Their career transition bloomed into a dedication to providing meaningful, compassionate service to people in their last years.
Then, Stawovy was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2011.
“It wasn’t Cheryl’s battle with cancer that inspired this foundation,” Lynne Kay, director of development for the Cheryl Kay Foundation and Stawovy’s sister-in-law, said. “We wanted to honor her life and keep her memory alive … Too many people who needed help couldn’t afford it. We wanted to do something to help those in need and honor Cheryl.”
The family-run nonprofit accomplishes this by providing financial grants to home-care agencies to cover services for older adults and women facing breast cancer.
In addition to grants, the foundation partners with nonmedical licensed home-care agencies to connect individuals with licensed caregivers to help with housekeeping, companionship, transportation, cooking, and other personal-care tasks.
“We are a hybrid foundation. No one does what we do,” Kay said. “We are, at times, the last place people can go to find the help they need.”
In recognition of Stawovy’s breast-cancer battle, the foundation also finds home-care assistance for breast cancer patients and their caretakers.
“In times like this, everyone deserves clean sheets, clean bathrooms, and nutritious cooking. Sometimes it’s just about having someone to listen to what’s on your heart,” Kay, a former home-care agency community liaison, said. “It is hard for women to ask for help. Often children and family live far away, and they don’t want to burden their neighbors.”
The 501(c)3 foundation generates funding for its grants by partnering with community organizations and through fundraising initiatives, such as golf outings, an endowment program, special events, and charitable contributions.
And it all goes toward the foundation’s grants and programs, Kay said, stressing that “no one takes a salary from this organization.”
Kay said the feedback they have received from care recipients has assured them they are continuing to help in a way Stawovy would have wanted.
“One of our [breast cancer] clients said they needed all the help they could get. They were so tired from working, treatment, and taking care of a spouse that had just had a stroke — they were at their wit’s end,” Kay said. “Having someone come in and help was pivotal.”
Kay also recounted the story of a daughter whose mother was in the hospital in hospice care. The mother wanted to spend her final days at home, but the family couldn’t find anyone to help.
“We found the appropriate agency, and they sent in a trained caregiver … The mother perked up as soon as she came home,” Kay said. “They spent four beautiful days together, staying up all night laughing, telling stories, crying, and hugging. What a beautiful way to spend your last days.”
The foundation often receives word of people in need from social workers, case managers, and nurse navigators.
Each $1,000 grant — estimated to cover about 50 hours of in-home care — is made to the partnering home-care agency, not the individual directly, to cover the cost of the individual’s needed services. Forms and an explanation of the grant-application process can be found at www.cherylkayfoundation.org.
“Having someone to hold you up and say, ‘I’ll be here for you and help you in this fight’ is priceless,” Kay said.