Health, Lifestyle, News

YMCA launches Corner Stone program for families dealing with cancer

Lynch/van Otterloo YMCA Executive Director Gerald MacKillop helped create the Corner Stone program, which is a new initiative that supports cancer patients, cancer survivors and their families. (Spenser R. Hasak)

MARBLEHEAD — The YMCA’s role in the community has consistently evolved since the Young Men’s Christian Association was founded in 1844 as a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the taverns, brothels and hazards of life on the streets during the Industrial Revolution.

It’s certainly come a long way from the “swim and gym” Ys of our youth, as well.

Friday morning, the YMCA of the North Shore’s Lynch/van Otterloo Y will officially launch Corner Stone, a first-in-the-nation program designed to support cancer patients, cancer survivors, and their families.

Participants will have no-cost access to YMCA-sponsored health and wellness resources, programs and support to help them in their cancer fight. The initiative also includes access to all seven YMCA of the North Shore locations, a complimentary week of summer camp for children enrolled in the program, and free, onsite drop-in babysitting for parents who are currently in treatment.

“People might still think of the YMCA as a swim and gym operation,” said Gerald MacKillop Jr., executive director of the Marblehead-based Y. “But an organization like the YMCA of the North Shore would not be around for 150 years if it didn’t listen to the community and provide services they need.

“Corner Stone is one such service that’s needed. Every family is touched by cancer. This will provide a safety net … If a person has to cancel a doctor’s appointment because there is no one to take care of their children, we will take care of the kids here. If a person has been in treatment all day, the last thing they want to do is go out at night for a screening, especially if it means a trip into Boston. We can do the screening here, and the patient can be taken care of while other family members can take advantage of our offerings.”

MacKillop said Corner Stone provides:

  • A complimentary Y membership to cancer survivors (those diagnosed within the past five years) and their families for one year (with extended options for those still receiving treatment).
  • Access to all member benefits and specialized programs to help those with cancer and recovering from cancer.
  • A complimentary week of summer camp for all children in the family enrolled in the program.
  • A schedule of special drop-in babysitting for parents who are currently in treatment.
  • A non-clinical environment where patients and family can feel comfortable and supported.

The Corner Stone program is offered at each YMCA of the North Shore location:  Beverly, Gloucester, Haverhill, Ipswich, Salem, Plaistow, N.H., and Marblehead.

MacKillop said Dana Farber, Lahey Health, Steward Health, Care Dimensions hospice and Spaulding Rehab are onboard. Mass General Cancer Center and the Reid Sacco Adolescent and Young Adult Program for Cancer and Hereditary Blood Diseases have expressed interest in participating.

“Our CEO, Chris Lovasco, said, ‘For every person coming here seeking our services we’ll go into the community to help at least one more person.’ What a bold statement. Corner Stone has the chance to make a big impact,” said MacKillop, adding that this Y facility already offers programs targeted to help Parkinson’s patients, autistic children and those with traumatic brain injuries. He said this Y’s mission statement is to strengthen communities, educate and nurture children and promote healthy living in spirit, mind and body.

“A cancer diagnosis is devastating, and the goal of Corner Stone is to build a community support structure and provide essential daily support for cancer patients, survivors and their families,” said Lovasco, chief executive officer of the YMCA of the North Shore. “For more than 100 years, the Y has been a community resource that has experience offering a wide variety of crucial health, wellness and education programming. We’re excited to launch this new program that will benefit so many adults, children and families in our local communities.”

“More than a million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year, yet there is often a shortage of daily programming and support to help these individuals and their families,” said William J. Leaver, president of the YMCA of the North Shore Board of Directors. “Corner Stone provides cancer patients and their families with a comfortable and welcoming environment where they can access the programming and support they need. This is a new and innovative way the Y can continue to deliver its mission in our communities.”

For additional information, go to www.northshoreymca.org or call 781-631-9622.

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