INDIAN TRAIL — Cindy Summers considers herself a helper and not a leader. That’s how she has kept her nonprofit, Cindy’s Hope Chest, steady since 2010.
She is heralded as a caregiver for others who are going through similar battles like what she went through with stage three breast cancer.
It required her to have chemotherapy treatment, a double mastectomy, and radiation. Shortly thereafter, Summers developed lipedema in her arm, which kept her from being active for a while.
“When I was diagnosed (in August 2008), no one on either side of my family had ever had cancer, so it kinda shocked me, and it never was in my thought that it could be what was making me sick,” she said. “… My kids were young, and my husband (Mike) was in the army at the time, so I was super scared.”
With her husband and their three daughters by their side, Summers found grace through their family and kept herself busy making memories. She also explored different ways to start a non-profit; Mike helped her begin with funding.
Summers rang the bell in April 2009, and it inspired her to welcome Cindy’s Hope Chest a year later.
“… I wanted to give people hope and encouragement that someone like myself will be OK,” she said. “… I didn’t know if it was going to come back or a reoccurrence, so I wanted to be someone’s friend and let them know they’re going to be OK and how important positive thoughts are to get through something so scary and terrible.”
After filing Cindy’s Hope Chest to become a 501©3, she was approved a month later, thinking “it was wrong.” She called to figure out the situation, and the caller replied, “You must have touched someone’s heart.”
Summers immediately went to work by starting Chairs for Charity, an annual art exhibition held at Porter Ridge Middle School every year. She also started putting together care packages for other breast cancer patients, which she still does today.
She, along with many volunteers, provides friendship, encouragement, and visits during treatments, delivers local meals, runs grocery errands, and house cleaning.
Summers also learned how to relate to other feelings while patients are in their treatments. She despises the word cancer but remains hopeful with her affirmations so she can do the same for others.
“You feel like you’re battling death,” she said, “and I was lucky enough to try to be careful with my thoughts and my feelings and be thankful and do whatever I could for other people.”
Summers cites her husband, their daughters, her mother, Barbara Martin, and family friends for standing by her side during her battle and to this day.
Cindy’s Hope Chest is run by donations from business partners, companies, and donors. They have a need for scarves, journals, wigs, hard candy, new blankets, and head wraps.
“It’s been rewarding, I’m here now 14 years later…” Summers said. “I’m thankful to God that He’s given me opportunities to pay back for the kindness people have shown me while I was battling.”
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