The Extra Mile

Erika Young and Devin Cannady

Joy through charitable team-building events

Devin Cannady and Erika Young with gifts to deliver
X-MAS ELVES: Devin Cannady, BSN, RN, OCN, and Erika Young, RMA III, gather presents and gift cards for patients and their families, Christmas 2021.

Devin Cannady, BSN, RN, OCN, and medical assistant Erika Young, RMA III — co-chairs of the Duke Cancer Institute Work Culture Committee in Clinic 3-2 — go the extra mile to support patients in need.

“They have led some really impressive grassroots initiatives over the past several years,” said Meg Helsley, MSN, APRN, AOCNS, Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist at Duke Cancer Center and a member of the DCI Team Member Well-Being Steering Committee. “They organize annual gift-giving for several patients and their families at Christmas. This year, they provided a sewing machine, gift cards, laptops, tablets, a Nintendo Switch, and winter jackets and gas cards. They also volunteer at Caring House with their clinic team; making meals for the guests several times a year. When they were restricted from preparing food on site during COVID, they collected money to buy the guests gift cards for food.”

Young has been active in holiday gift giving efforts ever since she started working at Duke Cancer Center eight years ago and Cannady has been involved for the past six. Today, through their efforts, Clinic 3-2 (which sees patients with gastrointestinal or thoracic/lung cancer) “adopts” an average of four families each year.

Caring House volunteers
A team of volunteers from Clinic 3-2 visited Caring House recently to bring a meal to DCI patients and their caregivers at this extended-stay home-away-from-home in Durham. They used to enjoy chatting with the guests as they ate, but now they can’t join them due to Covid-19 precautions. From left to right: Angela Munford, CMA; Mary Taylor, CMA; Carmen Halbohn, RN, MSN-ED, DNC; Erika Young, RMA III.

Prior to COVID, they would host an annual bake sale to raise funds for the gifts. Since COVID, they’ve run seasonal gift basket raffles themed to the winter holidays, Valentine’s Day and summer season — giving everyone the chance to purchase tickets. They also collect donations outside the raffle. This year they raised about $1,500.

“It’s very fulfilling — just seeing their joy and gratitude,” said Cannady, noting that many of the families have younger kids.

She added that one year her parents drove two hours out of town to deliver gifts to a family. 

“This holiday tradition brings the whole clinic together,” said Young. “Giving back in this way is a bonus to what they do every day.”

“Nurses, providers, PRMO staff, and Cancer Center Resource Center team members look forward to this every year,” said Clinic 3-2 Nurse Manager Nicole Allen, MSN, RN, NE-BC. “This was especially the case during 2020. With so much anxiety and uncertainty, pulling together to provide happiness to families in need really made an impact on the team. It was a way we could all pull together to make, in some cases, one last Christmas happen. Erika and Devin put in a ton of effort organizing this, bringing people together, and delivering joy to our patients, their families, and the team.”

Cannady and Young have organized other team-building events for staff including gatherings outside of work to get to know each other, breakfasts for new hires, and potlucks — efforts that have understandably stalled with COVID.

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