Scottsdale nonprofit Chemo Companions helps cancer patients

December 29, 2023
Scottsdale nonprofit Chemo Companions helps cancer patients

Scottsdale nonprofit Chemo Companions helps cancer patientsWhen Marriann Gofonia’s cancer came back, it meant she was going to have to undergo chemotherapy.

But she wasn’t alone. A couple of Gofonia’s five daughters would always go with her to her treatments.

She didn’t go to treatment empty-handed either.

lt wasn’t unusual for one of Gofonia’s daughters to walk into her home on chemo day and find her doing things like making muffins for everyone.

“My mom was all about others,” Gofonia’s daughter Alyssa Dinowitz said.
While going with her mother, Dinowitz met a lot of people in the hospital going through the same thing her mother was, and over time she made friends with some of them.

There was one elderly woman who was always sleeping – Dinowitz dubbed her Sleeping Beauty. And there was Gary an old man who always wore blue suede shoes, so Dinowitz started calling him Elvis.

Then the horrible day came in 2009 when Gofonia succumbed to her cancer.

“My sisters and dad and I were like we’re never going back there again, but then I was like Delores is there, Norma is there, Elvis is there, Deb is there and Mary is there,” Dinowitz said.

Many of these friends had no family coming with them so Dinowitz started going to sit with them.

“lt’s pretty common for people to go alone, which I thought was sad because it’s a scary place,” Dinowitz said.

Norma and Gary Schramm were a married couple, both ofwhom were fighting cancer. Dinowitz would sit and talk with them for hours, just bringing cheer to an otherwise dark place.

“It was almost like she was like another daughter to them,” said the couple’s daughter Caroline Melby.
And that’s not all Dinowitz did.

“It got to the point where she was a support to me as well,” Melby said.
Dinowitz was there when first Gary and then Norma passed and attended both their funerals. That meant so much that Melby and Dinowitz still stay in touch, 10 years later.

“lt was a really special kind of friendship,” Melby said.
But Dinowitz noticed during her visits the people she was visiting didn’t have basic things like a blanket ora pair of socks, so she started bringing those things with her.

And that was the beginning of Chemo Companions, a 50l(c)(3) nonprofit that provides tote bags with sorne of the essentials – such as blankets, socks, a hand knitted hat, Chapstick, puzzle books and a pen.

The organization distributes about 500 bags in the Valley and Flagstaff each year.

Dinowitz, who does not collect a salary or administrative fees, feels bad about that number.

“Over 32,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in Arizona last year …lt breaks my heart. l just want to do more,” she said.

She gets the contents for the tote bags or the money to fill them from a number of places, such as East Valley Women’s League and the Arizona Community Foundation.

And different companies provide products too.

“l’ve gota woman at Nieman Marcus who gives me perfume samples and eye cream samples, that sort of thing,” Dinowitz said.

Students at Phoenix Country Day School make watercolor cards with inspirational messages in them.

And Findlay Toyota just started sponsoring Chemo Companions and brought it to Flagstaff. Dinowitz is delivering 250 bags to the Cancer Support Community of Arizona in Flagstaff.

Sports clubs in the Valley have gotten involved too.

The Phoenix Suns have given face masks with their logo on them and the Coyotes have donated fanny packs with their logo.

Members of the Coyotes and their wives are going to be stuffing 100 bags Monda y at The Henry restaurant at 44th Street and Camelback Road.

The bags aren’t all Chemo Companions do though.

At Christmas, Dinowitz gets calls from nurses letting her know about patients who need a Iittle more help.

Usually it’s mothers facing their Iast Christmas.
Dinowitz provides thousands of dollars in Fry’s gift cards because they work for groceries or gas.

One year Chemo Companions even paid the mortgage for a couple of months for a family whose 2 year old had been diagnosed with cancer.
Dinowitz is grateful she is able to provide these things but doesn’t see it as going above and beyond the call of duty.

“My mom’s working through me,” Dinowitz said. “I’m just doing what I’m supposed to.”

To donate or Iearn more, go to Chemo Companions’ website.


Posted Friday, February 10, 2023 9:56 am

By John Graber
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