Every February 14, people around the world celebrate the holiday affectionately known as “Valentine’s Day” by gifting candy, flowers and gifts to loved ones. For 13-year-old McKenzie Stone, this Valentine’s Day she wanted to give back in memory of her grandfather, Harold, who passed away from lung cancer in January 2018.
“I vividly remember how my grandpa would talk about the gifts that he received during his treatments at Duke,” explained McKenzie. “Specifically, there was one gift bag that had a pen inside, and he was so proud of that pen. He used to tell us that it was nice knowing that someone was thinking of them, and he was very grateful for those donors, sometimes they got him through difficult treatments.”
Currently, McKenzie holds the Miss USA Royal Miss of Roxboro 2020 title for North Carolina. Remembering how special the gift bags made her grandfather feel, McKenzie decided to adopt this project as her service platform for the national Miss USA competition.
“Once I decided I wanted to give back to the patients at Duke Cancer, I reached out to the local Roxboro community for help collecting items for the chemotherapy bags,” said McKenzie. “The outpouring of donations was amazing, everyone was really generous and we collected all the items in a few days!”
McKenzie and her family then assembled 400 gift bags to deliver to Duke Cancer Institute’s Patient Support Program. Along with every bag, she included a hand-written Valentine with an encouraging message.
“I hope that whoever receives these bags know that there are people thinking of them, people who are cheering for them,” said McKenzie. “Looking back, the small gifts made a huge impact on my grandfather during his care, and I hope that these Valentine gifts bring a smile to others.”
The Duke Cancer Patient Support Program provides support services to help patients and their loved one cope with the impact of cancer on their lives. Services are offered throughout the cancer experience — from diagnosis through treatment, recovery and survivorship. If you are interested in learning more about the program, please visit our website.