Mrs. Claus Club Provides Support for Cancer Treatment Patients

tiki
CLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) – Tiki Kahle vividly remembers her maternal grandmother Jean Taylor Graham and the joy she experienced when she put on her wig.

(Photo: Tiki Kahle with painted picture of her grandmother imagined as Mrs. Claus.)

Mrs. Graham eventually died from breast cancer, but Tiki remembers seeing her as a youngster. 

“She was one of those people who presented herself very well,” said Tiki.  “She wasn’t fancy, but she was always very well put together.  Her wig just made her feel so good – or at least as good as she could feel.  That’s important when they’re going through the cancer treatment.”

Tiki drew on the inspiration of her grandmother in starting the Mrs. Claus Club in 2004.

The Mrs. Claus Club of Knox provides goods, services, and funds to individuals from Knox and surrounding communities who have been diagnosed with cancer and are in treatment. The club accepts names from the public of individuals within the area who are battling cancer.

Tiki wasn’t sure what type of event for the club to raise money, but she patterned it after the Knox Bah Humbug Club that used a men’s night out to fund some local youth programs.

“I said why don’t we have a women’s night and decided to call it the Mrs. Claus Club because we believe we can fight cancer, or we can help people who are battling cancer and give them the support that they need,” said Tiki.

The Club asks for money one time a year but accepts donations at any time. From its humble beginnings in 2004 with an event at the Wolf’s Den, this year’s annual event raised over $27,000.00.

“At the first event, we had about 60 people at the Wolf’s Den and just started with women that I knew in the community,” said Tiki.  “My nieces have attended since they were very young, and I remember my grandmother was there up until she was 92 because she passed away when she was 93.  It’s all ages, and that’s the wonderful thing about it.  It’s a fundraiser, but to me it’s more than a fundraiser.”

The Club works in conjunction with Shear Cheveaux in Knox to provide wigs and provide comfort items. Mrs. Claus also donates gas and grocery cards to the Cancer Center at the Clarion Hospital, which shares these items with local patients. In addition, “Believe Baskets” are custom made for each cancer patient.

“Shear Cheveaux in Knox has a wig salon,” said Tiki.  “Generally, after we’re contacted, I call up the store and tell them who is going to be contacting them.  They have an area that is private and take you in and measure you and do whatever they need to get you a wig.  We even had a lady one time come in through the door and asked me how I liked her hair.  I didn’t even know who she was and didn’t recognize her. She said, ‘I went up and got my wig and I haven’t had hair in so long and I have hair now.  I just took one off the rack.’  She was so happy because she had hair.  If that gives her the strength to keep going; that’s what it’s all about.”

Tiki credits the relationship with the Clarion Cancer Center as allowing the Mrs. Claus Club to reach as many people as it does throughout the year.

“They’ve been wonderful to work with because it’s nice that you can trust them to take care of it because otherwise we have to depend on people telling us.”

Mrs. Claus also has referral forms and people can approach them about someone in need.

The support offered to patients at the Cancer Center varies from simple comfort items to computer tablets to watch movies and work on puzzles during long treatment sessions.  One of the latest items of support was a unique puzzle table that patients can use during treatment.

Due to Federal HIPPA regulations, it is sometimes difficult to determine what the needs are, but club members often ask what the patients need.

“They said our patients love to put puzzles together.  Our Board Secretary Amada O’Neil went online and found this puzzle table–it tilts and it’s felt and pieces can’t slide.  To me, this is what our work is all about—helping to take their mind off the treatment and letting them know someone cares.”

puzzle

Not only has the club grown in Knox, other chapters with the same vision have surfaced throughout Pennsylvania.

“My best friend from college, Gina Vasko, from Bentleyville, formed the first one after Knox.  She and her girlfriends down there started the Mrs. Claus Club.  We use the little Santa hat as our logo, and they use the snowflake because there were six of them that started it, and there are six points to the snowflake.  They all have lost or supported a family member.  They just had their 10th anniversary on November 11, and they had about 250 women attend their event.” 

Tiki graduate from Clarion University and was a member of Alpha Sigma Tau with Vasko.

One of Vasko’s friends also started one in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, and a doctor contacted Tiki about wanting to start another club in the panhandle of West Virginia.

“We try to honor and acknowledge the fighters and the survivors, so the people there see where the funds are going, but most importantly so that the fighters and survivors see they’re not alone,” said Tiki. “There are people that care about them and want them to get better and give them the strength to fight.  You’re going to have good days and bad days when you go through treatment, and hopefully you’re going to have more good days than bad days, but everybody is different.”

Tiki herself is an eight-year survivor of cancer but said she is blessed because it was detected early and she did not have to go through as demanding treatment as some people.  Education is also a component of the Mrs. Claus Club, working with the Keystone School District and sports teams to promote cancer awareness.

“Prevention is our intention, screening has meaning” is a slogan often used. 

Cancer information flyers are handed out and making good health changes are also encouraged.

Another tradition of the Mrs. Claus Club Annual Meeting is the presentation of artwork by local artist Lori Hartzell to some of the survivors. Tiki treasures a painting of her grandmother as Mrs. Claus, reminding her of how it all started.


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