Waiting on the Other Side

April 7, 2022

As I sit here writing, overlooking the water, I am reminded that my view of the Gulf is quite similar to what Thomasina saw just three weeks prior. It’s the same ocean that allowed her to exhale, even just for a moment, to take in what life had given her. I wonder if those same differentiating blues spanning for miles, reminded her that there was something bigger than herself waiting on the other side? A next chapter.

A little over a month ago KWF Columbus Chapter lead, Irene Adams surprised  Thomasina with a very special gift, unknowingly, a last vacation. Irene met Thomasina and her son Kalomo at a fun chicken joint in town, along with her nominator, Yvonne. Yvonne was her acupuncturist who realized there weren’t many people who deserved a gift more than Thomasina. So when she was presented with a vacation to sunny South Florida, in true KWF fashion - she said YES. Thomasina and Kalomo would be heading to the Sea Cliff Hotel in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea!

Despite an aggressive cancer diagnosis with a limited timeline, Thomasina knew the importance of making the most of her time with the people she loved and a few happy strangers as well.

Thomasina and Kalomo made a myriad of beautiful memories on that trip. However, it was a moment with one of those ‘strangers’ that stuck with us the most. One early morning, Eva, general manager of the Sea Cliff Hotel, got up before the sun to surprise Thomasina. Eva presented Thomasina with flowers, fruits and chocolates as they both watched the sunrise from their balcony overlooking the ocean. A moment the three of them will never forget.

​You see, Eva is like a second mother to KWF’s South Florida Chapter lead, Tyler Smillie. Tyler, a rising star in the private banking industry, shared the KWF vision with Eva and boom, she was hooked.

Despite an aggressive cancer diagnosis with a limited timeline, Thomasina knew the importance of making the most of her time with the people she loved and a few happy strangers as well.

Thomasina and Kalomo made a myriad of beautiful memories on that trip. However, it was a moment with one of those ‘strangers’ that stuck with us the most. One early morning, Eva, general manager of the Sea Cliff Hotel, got up before the sun to surprise Thomasina. Eva presented Thomasina with flowers, fruits and chocolates as they both watched the sunrise from their balcony overlooking the ocean. A moment the three of them will never forget.

​You see, Eva is like a second mother to KWF’s South Florida Chapter lead, Tyler Smillie. Tyler, a rising star in the private banking industry, shared the KWF vision with Eva and boom, she was hooked.

Shortly after Thomasina returned from Florida, it was her time. She passed away on  Tuesday, November 23rd, less than two weeks after her memorable trip. Up until that very last moment, Thomasina and her son delighted in the memories they created on that last vacation together. Thomasina truly embodied what it meant to be LIVING with cancer. Like my mom, Karen, and Tyler’s mother, Kathi - she focused on the good, on making the most of this life and the time she had left.

And because of givers like you, she had the opportunity to watch one last sunrise with her son and a new friend to share her journey with. She had the gift of time in the palm of her hands and the beautiful opportunity to say one final, resounding, YES.

Angeline Wellington

The Gift of Time

April 7, 2022

It’s November, a time to focus on gratitude! This month, we are spotlighting the impact our donors have on each individual who is touched by KWF. Whether you offer up your Bengals tickets or donate airline miles, make a $5 donation to our mission or open your vacation home to a  family who needs a break,  never underestimate the immeasurable value of your gift. Not only are you generously giving something tangible, but you are also providing our recipients with the ultimate present...the gift of time. No chemo, no bills and no cancer in sight, just that undeniable feeling when those Billy Joel tickets you received come with a 7 song encore by the Piano Man himself. Or that unrecognizable sense of peace that surrounds you as you enjoy your coffee overlooking the ocean while your kids play in the sand. It is time uninterrupted by cancer, time that would not be possible without the abundant generosity of givers like you.

We could tell you how much your kindness means to our recipients, but we will let them do that for us. Hear from some of our KWF ladies in the testimonials below.

-The KWF team

“As we drive home today, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. These past few years have been so hard for our family. We didn’t realize how badly we needed this trip. For the first time in a while, we laughed, we had fun and we were filled with joy. My father recently passed away and before he died, I asked him what his favorite memories were. He said his favorite times were on our family vacations and time together. I’d like to think we made him (and Karen) proud this week because we had so much fun and made some lifelong memories.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! We will be forever grateful for this time we got to spend together.”-Cathy Huckeba (Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 2021)

“The fight against cancer and not knowing from one day to the next what's going to happen wreaks havoc on a person's life. Cancer just came in and took over our lives. We finally were able to let go of cancer and enjoy ourselves with our trip to Maui. We are so thankful to KWF and Dr. Victor Nicolas for his hospitality and lending his condo to us. It was so relaxing just to sit on the Lanai and watch the waves coming in off the ocean. Every day was a day of fun from hiking, touring the whole island by car, dipping my toes in waterfalls, to a beautiful sunset dinner cruise on the ocean.

Thank you to KWF and ‘Dr.Vic’ for all the wonderful memories that we will carry in our hearts forever.”
- Dawn Battistone (Maui Hawaii, 2021) ​

I cannot thank KWF + Chuck and Molly Stewart enough for one of the best nights ever!! I love Billy Joel and getting to see such an amazing concert in the middle of my cancer treatment truly raised my spirits and made memories that will last a lifetime. I am so grateful for your generosity. This gift that included not only the Stewart’s tickets to the concert but gift cards and clothing and other fun items was not only for me but also for my husband and brother and sister in law who have been by my side. Getting to spend time with family and listening to amazing music during one of the toughest times of my life is something I will never forget and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart!
- Katie Hauck (Billy Joel Concert, 2021)

“Dear Hoffman’s,
This family vacation was gifted to us by the Karen Wellington Foundation and we are so blessed to have been here this week and enjoyed time as a family in this wonderful place. My name is Cynthia, I am 28 years old and I am a breast cancer survivor. This past year has been the hardest! God has different plans for us and his timing is we just learn from the hard times and continue to receive His many blessings.
Thank you so much for donating your beautiful home. Our two boys LOVED it. May God continue to bless you.”
-The Avolos Family (Hilton Head Island, 2021)

The Light After the Storm

April 7, 2022

As meteorologist at WCPO here in Cincinnati, Sherry Hughes is used to being in the spotlight. Most of you know her as a bit of a local celebrity around town, and for good reason. Sherry is out front, chock full of positive energy and ready to lead. “I’ve always been conscientious from childhood that I am part of a larger community. I love being part of the greater good,” she says. Indeed! She does that wherever she goes.

Sherry initially made the move to Cincinnati for love. In 2011, after a year and a half of commuting from her home in Tampa Bay, she packed her things and moved to the Queen City to be with her beloved husband, Myron – and she’s loved this town ever since.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2019 that she knew just how much it loved her back.

Sherry lost her mom to breast cancer when she was in her early 20’s. “We were devastated. She was our world,” she recalls. Ever since, Sherry had always stayed on top of her health, incredibly proactive with her mammograms and tests. As an avid runner and swimmer, she felt great. She walked the halls at work, to keep in motion and connect with her colleagues. A testament to her vibrant and active lifestyle.

When the opportunity to have a breast MRI came about, she took advantage of it. It was a preventative, purely routine measure. Although after her appointment, something didn’t look right. She shrugged it off thinking it was probably nothing. Two 3-D mammograms and three biopsies later, they found what they were looking for. When she got the call, Sherry was informed that she was LIVING with Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer.
She was stunned.

“It was a stormy day,” she recalls “so I went to work.” Sherry showed up, made sure viewers had what they needed and then headed home to face her personal storm.

She looked at her strong and steadfast husband of 9 years, weeping, and, “something came over me,” she says.

“It was as if my mother, grandmother, aunts and all my ancestors were there assuring me that it was going to be okay. I could feel their power willing this strength in me saying, ‘Do not be afraid.
You can do it. We are all here with you.’ ”

She tested HR2 positive and her oncologist recommended aggressive chemotherapy. So, she got busy getting healthy.

She remembers vividly the clumps of long hair that her mom lost during her breast cancer battle. Sherry didn’t want the drama of that, so she cropped her hair into a pixie. Her hairdresser made a custom wig for her knowing that it wouldn’t be long before she lost all of her hair. Although viewers and her co-workers knew about cancer, she didn’t skip a beat at work.

“It didn’t bother me to be bald,” she said, but wearing a wig was “hot, uncomfortable and I didn’t like it.” Seeing her aggravation, Myron encouraged her to go without it.

With very little fanfare, Sherry showed up for work, fully made up, looking fine, no wig and no hair! She went on the air and that’s when it happened…

The love she had so freely given to the community that she helped build over the years seemed to come flooding back to her. The switchboards lit up, emails came flooding in, it was overwhelming.

That strength she was searching for early on in her diagnosis suddenly bubbled over when she realized that she was now that glimmer of hope for families experiencing the same thing that she was. Although she had always been a leader within her community, she was now a sounding board for those who needed it most. For those who needed something to hold onto.

That’s just what Sherry Hughes is: the light after the storm. She says, “Television is what I do, but it isn’t all that I am.” It’s her abiding faith that’s kept her strong as she’s journeyed through cancer in the limelight. It’s the thing that draws her friends and community members to her as well.

Her “tv bestie” Krystin Hartman and close girlfriend Gina Goings both nominated her for a vacation through KWF. The day KWF showed up at Channel 9, she was shocked. “I didn’t know what it was all about. Why would someone do this for me and Myron!?”

The plan was for KWF to send them on a trip for their 10th Anniversary in the spring of 2020. Instead, her calendar filled up with more surgeries, treatment and, of course, Covid halted any travel plans.

It took almost two years to get that trip on their calendar. Myron and Sherry finally got off the ground last summer. When the plane took off, “a load just lifted from my shoulders. I didn’t know how much I needed that. All the strength it took to stay positive, battle cancer and be there for so many was lifted. It was freeing and liberating to run down the beach and just shout Hallelujah! God, thank you! Look where I am!” she reflects.

They didn’t talk about cancer on that trip and aside from now being a leader and role model for so many other women, they don’t talk much about it anymore at all. Sherry is glad to be LIVING.

“All that we’ve been through in the last few years is culminating in this huge ball of gratitude and joy...Somebody did that for me and Myron. Somebody else was taking care of us.”
Happy 11th Anniversary, Sherry and Myron. We are glad that like so many of our recipients, you’ve chosen to say YES. YES to Myron, YES to our city...and of course, YES to LIVING ON through KWF. You truly embody the mission of this foundation and we can’t wait to see all those who you continue to inspire along the way.

*Sherry Hughes is one of our Honorary Chairs for the 15th Annual Karen’s Gift Event on April 2, 2022. She’s one of the many deserving woman who represent our mission.*

Alexia Zigoris

It All Started with a FUNd…

April 7, 2022

I have many memories of my mom, far too many to count. Everything from cozy Christmas mornings and pizza-mom lunches to Ohio State Football games and countless car rides belting Sheryl Crow. While all those are seared into my memory the ones that stick with me the most always seem to be those that took place on vacations. That moment in time where my family got to step away from all the stresses of day-to-day schedules, no chemo, no doctor’s appointments and most importantly, no cancer. The little moments in between. That’s where LIFE happens. And those moments are how I remember her.

Although I have no shortage of memories with my mom, one in particular always seems to follow me. Karen with a fishing rod in hand walking into the sunset while on one of our last vacations together. Some may look at this and think the scenery is what makes it beautiful, but to me, it is something far more significant. What this photo represents is my mom’s legacy. Although she may be moving forward as the sun sets on her life, what she left behind was beautiful. A legacy that brought beauty and a bit of life back into the lives of thousands of women and families just like hers.

Not too long after this photo was taken we decided to start a fund in honor of my mom. That little “FUNd” (as we now call it) is now known as The Karen Wellington Foundation for LIVING with Breast Cancer. As KWF grew, we quickly realized how many women, like Karen deserved a chance to share their legacy as well. We found that there were countless families who wanted to create their own ‘KWF’ but didn’t have the time, energy or resources to pour into starting and sustaining a foundation of their own. So that is where the idea of creating the FUNds began. KWF now has over 30 FUNds that celebrate the lives of those who believe in our mission.

Some FUNds are started after a recipient passes away as a way to celebrate their life and legacy. A FUNd that has really taken off this year has been the Becky Pellegrini FUNd. Becky and her husband, Joe took a KWF vacation to Maui back in 2018. After Becky’s passing last year her family knew that her vibrant legacy needed to be shared with those far beyond their small community in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Joe and his kids, Mia, Anna and Nick wasted no time starting The Becky Pellegrini FUNd in her honor. In fact this summer they hosted their first-ever “Beckypalooza” event raising thousands of dollars for our mission. The Becky Pellegrini FUNd allows for women like Becky to experience some of that magic she felt on her trip to Hawaii. Those little moments where time slowed down just enough for Becky to take it all in while watching the sea turtles from her beachside balcony. The moments in between.

Just as the Pellegrini kids started a FUNd in honor of their mom, Paaras Parker started a FUNd for herself! Although Paaras does not have cancer, years ago she found that our mission resonated with her. She wanted to do more to create FUN for women and families LIVING with cancer. This past weekend Paaras held her 9th annual KWF Birthday Give Back. Each year Paaras gathers friends and family together on her lawn for a yoga class where she discusses the impact of KWF and takes donations to fuel our mission. This year The Paaras Parker FUNd raised enough money to send a deserving woman and family LIVING with cancer on vacation! A testament to the power in taking a leap to “Give First.”

Although we have a variety of incredible KWF FUNds spanning from coast to coast, there has been one that’s resonated with me recently, The Jenn Anderson FUNd. And who is the one leading the charge through Jenn’s legacy FUNd? That would be none other than Jenn’s 11-year-old daughter, Greta. One bake sale at a time, Greta is changing the lives of countless ladies LIVING with cancer, just like her mom. My story is a lot like Greta’s. I was only 10 years old when my mom passed away, leaving millions of unanswered questions, ‘what-ifs’ and wide-open spaces to figure things out on my own. Although there are countless unknowns, there’s one thing I know for sure. My mom would’ve wanted this. Not only for her own legacy but for the thousands of women to come after her. I have no doubt in my mind that Greta’s mom would’ve too.

And it all started with a FUNd.

Angeline Wellington

When a Trip is More Than a Trip

April 22, 2022

I am a charming vacation home located in a scenic oceanside village of Stinson Beach in Northern California. Those who stay here get to experience the joys of white sandy beaches, stunning hiking trails, rustic art galleries, day trips to San Francisco, and more.

Typically, I recognize one couple that resides here in these walls, but every so often, a few weeks each year, this couple retreats, and new faces arrive through my doors. These faces project delight, excitement, and relief, and they all have something in common: these unfamiliar friends are Karen Wellington Foundation recipients.

I quietly observe as the owners begin to prepare for the arrival of the KWF recipients weeks before their arrival date. They are meticulous and thorough in their preparation, taking their time to make sure that each corner of each wall is spick and span. They clean, they organize, and they depart; as they do so, they discuss their own excitement for the guests who are about to arrive. The care that these owners take is admirable, and the friends who get to make these walls their home for a week are eternally grateful.

It has been a blessing to watch the pages of stories unfold as various families and couples vacation here. Some walk about each room giddily, their joy bubbling over with each step. Others walk in and sit down with a sigh of relief, infinitely appreciative for a chance to relax as they take a break from their hectic daily lives. I recall one couple in particular that was difficult to read; they walked in and their emotions were hidden behind their eyes and their silence. They were cold and tense at first, but over the week, I began to see their warmth return. They went from a few short conversations each day to profound discussions that lasted hours as they sat on the balcony listening to the crashing waves. ​

I was unable to recognize their love for each other as they entered through the doors that first morning, but their closeness strengthened each day without the stressors of their lives back home, and their love was able to be pieced back together in a wondrous way on this single vacation. It is such a privilege to be the place that KWF recipients and their loved ones can enjoy, embrace, and even rekindle their love of each other and their love of life.

Ashley Fasola