Chemo Bags of Hope sparks joy in the Auburn community

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JEA National Student Media Contest

Janet Tarsi displays the backpacks for Chemo Bags of Hope in her classroom.

Colorful backpacks filled to the brim with stuffed animals, stationary, and comfort items form a pile inside a high school classroom in Auburn, Washington. Janet Tarsi, a marketing teacher and Distributive Education Clubs of America sponsor, displays the donations with her arms wide open and a smile hidden behind her mask.

The story of Chemo Bags of Hope did not start with Tarsi, however. In 2014, Janis Cupp was diagnosed with cancer and was given materials to help her throughout her chemotherapy journey. Upon realizing that her final chemotherapy session would take place on her birthday, Cupp put together bags for other cancer patients for them to have extra hope while getting treatment — ultimately founding Chemo Bags of Hope.

To help Chemo Bags of Hope, Tarsi and the DECA club students decided to put together a hundred bags filled with care items.

“Even though this was [during] the end of October I felt like it was Christmas. It was fun for my marketing students to see how we were able to create something positive even in this unique environment that we’re in,” said Tarsi.

While the delivery process of the backpacks were different this year due to Covid-19, Tarsi was able to deliver twenty-five of the bags to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon.

“To kind of spill my heart, I probably cried for an hour because I realized how grateful I was to be working somewhere where our community was willing to do something so awesome. It was because of our community giving back so much that I was able to do this, and I was full of so much gratitude,” said Tarsi.

The actions of Janis Cupp reached the hearts of many patients, giving them hope and joy and making a difference in their lives.

“[These kinds of projects] mean everything. I think all education is important. But I also believe that if we can teach people to have good hearts and to give back, they will be alright in this world [and] our society will be just fine,” said Tarsi.