Cancer Support Center finds 'silver lining' with online programming launch

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Cancer Support Center finds 'silver lining' with online programming launch

April 08, 2020 - 16:55
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The Cancer Support Center has had nearly 600 people visit its site, be part of an online discussion or participate in one of CSC’s online programs since closing its facilities in mid-March for the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s just phenomenal! If there is a silver lining to this tragedy we’re experiencing now, this really is a run for us and it’s catapulted us into where we wanted to be,” said Cynthia Turnquest, director of outreach and strategic partners at CSC.

The Cancer Support Center is a nonprofit that is community based, volunteer driven and donor supported. It offers programs, resources and services free of charge to those dealing with cancer, those who support them and anyone else touched by their experiences.

Cancer Support Center normally hosts its Walk for Hope fundraiser in spring and fall (pictured here). Due to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, this year's spring walk is replaced with Rise Up, an online celebration. (Chronicle file photo)

Turnquest said CSC, based at 2028 Elm Road in downtown Homewood and at a Mokena office, would expect about 2,000 people to visit its locations in a year. The numbers now show that a quarter of those people are staying connected through online programming since the center was forced to close its doors March 13 following the state’s stay-at-home orders.

“And remember, we have clients who aren’t tech savvy. They’re finding us, though,” Turnquest said. She points out that the online visitors “are not just our regulars, but people are hearing about us.  It’s a great way to check us out and not necessarily make the trip in.”

In 2019, CSC board members strategized implementing outreach with remote programming as part of its five-year strategic plan, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the staff to move quickly.

Turnquest said staff members stepped up, and were ready to try online programming the week of March 16. Today CSC is offering a dozen online videos, including nutrition classes and yoga sessions, and CSC participants have organized nearly two dozen weekly Zoom groups – live video meetings for clients interested in journaling, care giving, art therapy and many other programs.

CSC has four major fundraisers each year, and two – the May 1 gala and a spring walk on May 17 – are postponed. Turnquest said supporters are going to have Rise Up, an online celebration, in place of the May 17 walk.

“We're going to plan it like a telethon with video testimonies, special guests and surprise donations,” she said. The program will be aired live through CSC’s Facebook page or on YouTube.

In a video appeal, Bob DeChene, president of the board, is appealing to supporters to make a donation to get the center through this period. Visit cancersupportcenter.org for more information.