The Care Project hits its 10th anniversary in the fall of 2024, but there’s already a great deal to celebrate about this intrepid nonprofit organization, which rose from humble beginnings to emotionally and financially support female and male breast cancer patients.
It has succeeded in those efforts, often garnering praise for its never-ending dedication to helping locals in need in the region.
“I initially ran it during my lunch hour, before work, and after work,” says founder and president Carrie Madrid, who launched the organization with her friend, Christina Gonzalez, nearly 10 years ago. “After my diagnosis in 2012, I Googled ‘breast cancer support,’ and one place came up, which was, of course, the Pink Ribbon Place, the original breast cancer resource center.”
However, at that time, the organization was in transition, and finding assistance became cumbersome. Luckily, Madrid, a single mother, had family members. Her father stepped up and helped with co-pays and somehow, she began moving through a very challenging life event.
“I lived to check to check, and co-pays weren’t in my budget,” she recalls. “Then I was sitting in the chemo chair, and I would make friends and talk to everybody. I found that some patients were choosing between a $100 co-pay for chemo or feeding their teenagers. Some of them were forgoing treatment for a week or two weeks, which could cost them their life. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, somebody’s got to do something. Why not us?’
“Christina and I were both struggling single moms and we thought if we can pay our bills, we can help other people,” she adds. “We didn’t know how we were going to do it, but we just set out to do it.”
Thanks to the help of family members who were IT savvy and other locals eager to support the cause, a website was born, and things took off. The staff is lean—mostly Madrid and Gonzalez—but the duo has benefitted from the unending support of board members and other behind-the-scenes titans.
In addition to a skew of emotional support and mentoring for ailing individuals, The Care Project strives to fill in the gaps when other resources fall short. To that end, it assists with such things as grants for utility bills, rental assistance, co-pays, gift cards for groceries and household items, and compression sleeves by LympheDIVAS. Uber, Lyft, and fuel cards filter into the mix to assist with transportation to and from treatments.
Recently, The Care Project received a Women’s Giving Fund grant through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The funds will specifically assist the nonprofit’s new Death Doula Services imitative, which supports terminally ill patients who have been given a diagnosis or a prognosis of having six months or less to live.
“We walk beside them and help them prepare to die,” Madrid says of the work, noting that the care may vary from being at home or in the hospital with end-of-life individuals. “Maybe they ask, ‘Do I have all my affairs in order? Who do I want to be there with me at the end, who do I not want there by any, you know, any means?’
“We help with all the things that in society we don’t think about,” she adds. “It’s often taboo to talk about death and dying, but the fact is we’re all going to die, and a lot of cancer patients don’t survive. So why not give people that companionship? This new service is not provided or paid for by insurance. It’s not something that hospice does. It’s not something that the hospitals can do. We sort of fill in the gaps.”
The care, which is at no charge to the organization’s clients, is designed to provide comfort for individuals and respite for families. “The families sitting bedside with them may need to go take a shower or have a nap,” Madrid says. “Do they need to go to the grocery store? I will sit with that patient.”
She goes on to say that moving forward, The Care Project would like the local population to know more about its Men 2 program, which offers financial assistance and care to men battling male breast cancer. The genesis of the program arose when the husband of one of Madrid’s friends was diagnosed with breast cancer and died four months later.
“The Care Project has always provided emotional and financial support to men as well as women since the inception, but we don’t get a lot of men who reach out,” Madrid notes. “We decided to take the Men 2 program nationwide. We already have more than $7,000 in this fund since Dec. 1 because people are donating in honor of somebody or because their son, their brother or their father was diagnosed. It’s a new program but it’s already taken off.”
Learn more about The Care Project Inc. at thecareprojectinc.org.
This story originally appeared in the Press Enterprise December 2023.
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