SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Junior volleyball player Julia Zara recently founded an organization with five of her St. Francis classmates called Bags for the Brave. The organization provides necessity bags for cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.
"I have personally delivered bags to patients and patients have literally cried or had tears in their eyes with appreciation," said Tiffany Porter, the Oncology Nurse Navigator with Dignity Health Cancer Institute. "The bags are so thoughtfully put together that each item has a purpose for a patient receiving treatment such as: lip balm as patients lips can get dry from chemo, lozenges for dry mouth or change taste buds, a journal, a blanket as chemo infusion rooms can be cold, and a handwritten card in every bag w/words of encouragement and a uplifting poem. There are more items, but each thoughtful item has a purpose and the bags truly light up the faces of patients going through such a difficult journey."
Zara formed the idea while with the student council at Holy Family in Citrus Heights. After three family members were recently touched by cancer, she got her friends to together to start their project.
"It is really fulfilling, said Zara. "We get letters from patients saying how much it has touched their lives. I didn't realize how much it would touch my life too. It is nice to know you are helping people and making a difference in their lives."
With the help of the other St. Francis students -- Hayley Kreling, Abby Brown, Lauren Cannon, Kelly Tran, and Reyna Johnson-- Bags for the Brave delivers bags every month to Kaiser Permanente and also to Dignity Health. They have donated 140 bags so far since January.
The Troubies sell bracelets and raise money via a Go Fund Me page to help pay for their Bags and the included items. Every Bag for the Brave includes eight items: 1. Blanket, 2. Water Bottle 3. Journal 4. Lozenges 5. Chap Stick 6. Ear buds 7. Poety Book and hand-written message from one of the teammates.
"Julia has a huge, compassionate heart for Oncology (Cancer) patients," said Porter. "We (Dignity Cancer Center) were so impressed & touched by the Bags for the Brave Julia (and her classmates) made for patients."
They were recently featured in Dignity Cancer Center's Quarterly magazine, Journeys.
Zara's father, Jojet Zara, M.D., is a physician at Mercy Medical.