GCCC students give warmth to cancer patients





For Ronald Roth, being cold was out of the ordinary until he started getting chemotherapy treatments, so the blanket he recently received from cosmetology students at Garden City Community College has been the perfect gift.

"I got a real nice one. It was kind of a plaid design. They had a scary Bronco-colored one, and it was actually kind of cool looking too, until somebody said, 'Oh, you're a Bronco fan,' and then I threw it back on the pile," Roth, a Chiefs fan, said, laughing.

He said he keeps his blanket by his chair at home, and that his wife also has found a use for it.

"My wife uses it once in awhile to cover up her legs when she's drinking coffee in the morning," he said.

For the past few weeks, Roth has been receiving chemotherapy treatments at the Central Care Cancer Center, where cosmetology students recently delivered the 32 fleece tie blankets they made for cancer patients undergoing treatment there.

The students began making the blankets on Oct. 17, as part of their Strategic Team Building class,

"As part of that class, we did a community service, team-building project, so that's what we chose to do," cosmetology student Michelle Stahlecker said.

In total, they made 32 blankets in about five days, delivering them to the Cancer Center on Oct. 22.

"There are 23 of us, so we were able to get them done really fast," Stahlecker said.

The blankets are made from two pieces of fleece that are placed together and then tied together around the edges.

Cosmetology student Shaniece Wanzer said that in addition to donations, GCCC's Student Government Association provided them with the funds for the fleece.

Stahlecker said the experience of delivering the blankets to and speaking with cancer patients at the center brought out some strong emotions.

"I'll be honest, it kind of hit home because my mom just got over kidney cancer, so toward the end of our visit, I kind of got emotional and thought, 'I have to leave. I have to leave,' because knowing what my mom went through and knowing what we were able to do for those patients was kind of a tear-jerker moment for me," she said.

Cosmetology student Kyla Strickland said that the experience was very personal to her, as well.

"My grandpa, when I was younger, he passed away from lung cancer, so I understand what those families are going through and it made me feel like I'm actually helping somebody, showing them, 'I know what you've been through,'" she said.

Wanzer said that the cancer patients they spoke with openly shared their experiences with them and that the strength she observed in them was inspiring.

"I was kind of nervous. I've never known anybody who had cancer or anything, so I didn't know what I was about to walk into, but after we started talking to them and realizing how much they've been through - it's amazing," she said. "They were very open about what they wanted to tell us — they told us what cancer they had, about their family and how their family is coping with the treatments."

Stahlecker said she was amazed, too.

"They never broke down. It was like they stayed very uplifted," she said.

Stahlecker said that one of the patients received good news about her prognosis while the cosmetology students were delivering the blankets.

"I do know that the lady I was talking to had just heard that she was cancer-free, so we kind of cheered her on," she said. "So she was really excited."

Tony Palacio, who is completing his chemotherapy treatments soon, has gotten a lot of use out of his tie blanket.

"When I lay there in bed, I don't have to have all the blankets on me," he said. "I really love it. I really appreciate it. I would like to get a card to send to thank them, just to let them know we appreciate it."

His wife, Patty Speer-Palacio, who is an oncology nurse at the Cancer Center, said he uses the blanket all the time.

"He goes and lays down on top of the bed and he's all covered up in this nice little blanket, like a cocoon," she said.

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