by JANETTE SLUSHER
Anyone who has personally walked through a serious illness or life-changing event, or walked alongside a friend or family member going through a difficult time, knows how transformative it can be to be able to use the experience to help others who will follow in a similar path. Whether you call it “finding your purpose” or “paying it forward,” turning a difficult time into something beautiful can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both the giver and the receiver.
In the fall of 2015, Amy Taitt, a Kansas City native
and nurse by trade, heard through a friend about The Healing Chair, a nonprofit organization that was making a positive impact for mastectomy patients in the St. Louis area. By loaning patients reclining lift chairs upon returning home from the hospital, The Healing Chair’s mission is to provide comfort, community, support, and encouragement to aid in the women’s healing and recovery.
The Healing Chair was started in St. Louis when a group of women decided to raise money to purchase a lift chair for their friend, Carol Mullinex, after her mastectomy surgery. After experiencing the benefits of the chair during her recovery, Carol decided that other mastectomy patients would also benefit from using it, so she began passing it around town as she heard about someone in need. She soon realized this could be an incredible service to help other women, but could also be the vehicle that would allow her to serve other mastectomy patients in the longer term. She set out to create the service as a nonprofit organization, and The Healing Chair was born.
Intrigued by The Healing Chair’s mission and how much it benefited her friend in St. Louis, Amy realized the need for this service in Kansas City. She immediately reached out to two local friends, Marcia Moroney and Janette Slusher, both breast cancer survivors, to share her excitement about the possibility of bringing the idea to Kansas City. With Marcia and Janette immediately on board, they had a team of three women who were passionate about giving back and helping others, feeling blessed to be able to do so in a very special and unique way.
By October 2015, after contacting the St. Louis founder and working with her to replicate the charity in Kansas City, the team found itself with one chair (seeded from St. Louis), one recipient, and the green light to start a Healing Chair chapter in Kansas City.
Through fundraisers with Tequila Harry’s Mexican Restaurant, Kendra Scott Jewelry, and additional donations from family and friends, the team raised enough money to purchase several chairs, partnered with Crowley Furniture to purchase them at a discount.
By connecting with breast surgeons, plastic surgeons, breast cancer nurse navigators, and local hospitals, launching a Facebook page (The Healing Chair – Kansas City), and sharing about the charity via word of mouth, the requests for chairs started pouring in, and chairs started making the rounds in Kansas City. Today, the charity has 32 chairs in rotation in Kansas City and has helped over 250 women feel loved and encouraged before, during, and after their surgeries.
So how does this work? Once a request for a chair is received, the team contacts the patient to work through details for the delivery, setup, and return of the chair. Chairs are normally loaned out for about 30 days, and, oftentimes, recipients enjoy assisting with delivering the chair to the next recipient.
As important as the chair is to the healing and recovery process, Amy, Marcia, and Janette feel strongly that it’s “more than just a chair” and making a personal connection with each recipient is just as important as the chair itself. Therefore, at least one of them is present for every delivery. In addition to the chair, the recipient also receives a soft, cozy blanket, monogrammed with The Healing Chair logo, hers to keep after she is done using the chair.
In addition, each chair is named in honor of a loved one, organization, or business that sponsored the chair. An accompanying journal travels with each chair, which gives each recipient the opportunity to read the stories of the prior recipients and to journal about her own experience, which then gets passed to the next recipient.
The Healing Chair was the local beneficiary of Kendra Scott’s “buy one, gift one event” last October. At the conclusion of this event, the Kendra Scott organization gifted one piece of jewelry for every piece purchased during the event to The Healing Chair. These pieces of jewelry are then gifted to recipients at the time of the chair delivery.
The Healing Chair is so grateful for the generosity of the Kansas City community through financial support and to the countless volunteers who give of their time to help with deliveries and for fulfilling other needs from time to time.
As difficult as it is to see how many women need the service, it’s been such a blessing to be able to help so many women going through a difficult and scary time.