ROXBOROUGH >> Lisa’s Army is a Roxborough-based organization that is completely run by volunteers and dedicated solely to providing comfort to those undergoing cancer treatment.
The nonprofit organization’s mission is to create and deliver Comfort Care Packages filled with items that provide comfort and encouragement to those in treatment.
Lisa’s Army is a volunteer-run organization, with 100 percent of donations going toward creating care packages. Executive Director Marie Loonstyn runs Lisa’s Army, along with a team of volunteers, also known as “comforteers.”
Lisa’s Army is named for Loonstyn’s daughter, Lisa Loonstyn-Golden, who died in 2012 after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed at age 20, and throughout her treatment, she became concerned for the comfort of everyone else around her.
“Lisa always worried about everyone else in the treatment center,” Loonstyn said. “She was always very aware of her surroundings. She always worried about everyone else.”
With the help of the friends and family that surrounded her during treatment, Lisa’s Army was formed. The items in the Comfort Care Package are all things that Lisa specifically chose. They are the items that kept her occupied or brought her comfort while she was undergoing treatment, such as socks, blankets, journals, games and coloring books.
After Lisa’s death, Loonstyn and her family decided they wanted to do something to honor Lisa and help others battling cancer. In reading one of Lisa’s journals, they learned that she wanted to do something that would provide comfort to people with all types of cancer, rather than focusing on helping those with a specific type of cancer. Because of that, Lisa’s Army is dedicated to helping those battling all types of cancer.
Each care package is valued at approximately $600 and includes handmade inspirational cards and scrolls, various personal care items and either an iPad or a pair of BEATS Headphones. Loonstyn explained that Lisa always had her iPad with her during treatment as a way to stay connected with loved ones, play games and watch movies. Headphones were helpful in blocking out the noise in the treatment center.
When possible, the comforteers try to find out more about the recipient’s family, Loonstyn said. For example, if the patient has a child who spends a lot of time with them in the treatment center, they make an effort to include an extra skully hat or coloring book in the package to make the child feel included. Or, if the recipient is a child, some extra books may be included for his or her parents to help keep them occupied.
Lisa’s Army is affiliated with nine different area hospitals, and the organization delivers care packages to patients at each hospital on a rotating schedule, with each hospital receiving packages every other month. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, however, receives packages every month. The majority of the packages are delivered within the region, but occasionally packages are shipped to other parts of the country. All recipients are chosen through nominations, and anyone can nominate a patient to receive a package by filling out a nomination form, which is available at lisasarmy.org.
Since Lisa’s Army was formed, the organization has delivered 1,200 packages, with more delivered with each passing year. In 2018, Loonstyn said, they anticipate giving 425 care packages, with a monthly quota of 35 packages.
The organization has no overhead, as it is entirely run by volunteers, and even the organization’s headquarters were gifted, said Loonstyn. Many of Lisa’s family members and friends are involved with the organization as well.
Lisa’s Army has two events throughout the year. The first is the Lisa’s Army Ball and Monte Carlo Night, which will be on April 7 in honor of Lisa’s 30th birthday. The event, which will be at the Sheet Metal Union Hall, will include an awards ceremony to honor the work of individuals in five different categories: nurse, social worker, caregiver, doctor and comforteer.
“They’re on the front lines for anyone battling cancer,” Loonstyn said.
The Comfort Run, formerly known as the Pumpkins in the Park 5K and Walk, will be on Oct. 20. It will include a 5K run and walk, a kid’s tent and pumpkin painting. The event is meant to occur near Halloween, Lisa’s favorite holiday, and attendees are encouraged to come in costume.
The organization accepts both monetary donations and items that can be used for the care packages. Donated funds help pay for items such as the iPads, headphones, water bottles and blankets. Other donation items that are needed include fragrance-free lotions and hand sanitizers, flavor-free chapstick, journals, activity and coloring books, socks with grips on the bottom, eyebrow pencils, hard candy, crayons, playing cards and travel-size games.
To make a donation, locate a donation dropbox or nominate someone for a Comfort Care Package, visit lisasarmy.org. You can also find Lisa’s Army on Facebook and Twitter.
8945 Ridge Ave., Unit 8, Roxborough