A dozen students from The Priory Upper School's Hope Lodge Club spent the beginning of their winter break spreading joy to patients, their families and staff at the American Cancer Society's Clarence T.C. Ching Hope Lodge in Honolulu.
On December 20, the club and its faculty advisor, Todd Wyrick, headed over to the facility on foot with arms full of cookies, decorating supplies, presents, homemade cards and snacks.
The Hope Lodge provides cancer patients and their caretakers with a home away from home while they are undergoing cancer treatments. There are more than 30 Hope Lodge facilities across the United States and Puerto Rico. Each facility provides a welcoming and homelike community where guests can join in activities, share a meal or unwind in a private room.
The Clarence T.C. Ching Hope Lodge in Honolulu provides 20 rooms located near local treatment centers and is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Hope Lodge Club's president, senior Kawena Adams, has a personal connection to the lodge and the services it provides patients.
"I created the Hope Lodge Club to give back to the community and support those who are going through a similar journey my family has faced," she said. "I understand what cancer patients and their families go through and that it is especially hard when they have to be away from home and without their family and friends."
Adams story dates back to 2006 when she was five years old and her mother was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. The family was told that she would not live past Christmas. Hope Lodge played an important role in her mother's recovery journey.
"With the support of her family and friends, modern medicine, and the American Cancer Society, my mom beat cancer and is still alive and cancer-free to this day," Adams said.
In 2017, Adams' grandparents on her mother's side were both diagnosed with early stage throat cancer. Since they lived in Guam, they needed to come to O'ahu for the treatments.
"They stayed at the Hope Lodge where they had a free room and received support from other people going through a similar battle," she said.
During the club's December visit to the lodge, the girls sang Christmas carols, organized a white elephant gift exchange and arranged numerous delicious treats for patients, including a make-your-own Christmas cookie decorating station. They girls passed out handmade cards, created by the kindergarten and first grade students at The Prep and The Priory.
"As we left, one of the guests told me that we 'gave her hope' and that is honestly why we do the things we do," Adams said. "The Hope Lodge Club was created to link St. Andrew's Schools to people who deserve love and support in our community. I want students to see that they don't have to wait until they are older to make a difference in their community and in the lives of the guests at the Hope Lodge."
As the girls left the lodge before going their separate ways to celebrate the holidays with their own family and friends, they witnessed the smiles and good feeling they brought to residents at the lodge. The students knew they had brought some joy to others amid challenging times and in this way were embodying the school's vision for them to be engaged in the world and inspired to make it more humane.