Extra support is on the way for chemo patients

One Eau Claire resident is working on a gift project dedicated to people battling cancer


©2019 Lucas Semb

Mary Behling and one of her signature totes, featuring gifts such as coloring books and stuffed animals.

Meet Mary Behling, the Eau Claire woman who spends her free time preparing what she calls “chemo totes” for cancer patients.

“We’re using this tote to fill it with items that help chemo patients,” Behling said. “So, we’re using this tote and then it’ll be things like Kleenexes, candy, different things that’ll help chemo patients that are in for chemo at the hospitals.”

The majority of this project is funded through a company that Behling works for named Thirty-One Gifts.

One of Thirty-One Gifts primary goals as a company is to give back to the community, so Behling has made that her mission through this project. As an independent consultant for Thirty-One, Behling is donating 100 percent of her commission toward this project. On top of that, she’s also reaching out in Eau Claire to find people who would be willing to sponsor a Thirty-One tote for $25.

“Somebody can sponsor a tote for $25,” said Behling. “What that does is purchase the tote, tax and shipping, and then $2 for items in it.”       

Money isn’t the only way people have been donating to Behling’s cause.

Many people have donated items to be included in the totes by shipping them right to her front door. For just a few examples, the Girl Scouts have donated boxes of cookies and a UW-Stout sorority put together and donated gift bags — some for children and some for adults. Some people have been found some other unique ways to get involved.

“I had another lady that, her business is Joytasktics, so she does different tasks. So, she gave me 31 envelopes to put in, and she’s donating one hour of her time.”

One thing that she has enjoyed the most throughout this process is seeing the community get involved. She says she had an interview with TV news station WQOW, and because of that has gotten in touch with many different contacts willing to donate in some form.

“A lot of these people are strangers that I don’t know, that really care about the project and are just like, ‘here, have this.’”

Behling’s goal is to deliver 31 totes to various local hospitals and chemo patient lodging. One recipient of the chemo totes will be the Hope Cancer Lodge in Marshfield.

The Hope Cancer Lodge is a program of the American Cancer Society that provides access to cancer treatment for those who don’t have it in their hometowns. The lodge’s manager, Jewel Quelle, is eager to be able to gift her residents with these chemo bags.

“Mary really hit it on the head with what our patients need,” Quelle said. “She knows exactly what our guests would appreciate.”

Quelle says the Hope Lodge will decide which of their patients gets a chemo bag

day-by- day. She says that they get to know their patients so well that they know when somebody is in need of a “pick me up.”

“Our patients really open up to us,” Quelle said. “If someone got some bad news, or if they are just having a particularly difficult day, then we will give them these goodie bags for a little extra assistance.”

As of now, Behling says she has about 20 fully-funded, completed totes. Her hope is that the project will grow yearly, to the point where she can supply 93 totes to patients across the region.