Interview: Marci Schankweiler (For Pete’s Sake)

Interview: Marci Schankweiler (For Pete’s Sake)
February 23, 2015 treatmintbox
treatmint interview Marci Schankweiler at For Petes Sake fundraiser

[vc_row type=”in_container” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/1″][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/1″][image_with_animation image_url=”906″ alignment=”center” animation=”Fade In”][divider line_type=”No Line” custom_height=”50″][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]At Treatmint Box we get to meet amazing individuals every day. That’s part of the reason we love our job so much! We meet people with cancer facing uncertainty and their caregivers and friends,  but we also meet many extraordinary people that work behind the scenes in non-profits bring hope and healing to the cancer community. We recently heard about the amazing work For Pete’s Sake does and we know you guys will love them as much as we do! Here is our interview with founder, Marci Schankweiler. 

Tell us who you are and what your organization does…

My name is Marci Schankweiler and I am the Founder and CEO of For Pete’s Sake Cancer Respite Foundation (FPS). The inspiration behind FPS was the journey I traveled with my husband Pete during his journey with cancer.  We were high school sweethearts, married for five years, when on one beautiful summer day, Pete was diagnosed with an ugly, incurable form of cancer.  During his battle, our community hosted a Philadelphia favorite, a “beef and beer” in our honor and then presented us with monies to use during his illness.  Pete, knowing our future’s fragility, made plans to take a two week vacation with these funds, whereas I wanted to use them to pay our bills!  Pete triumphed and little did I know, these special days away in the Caribbean would change our lives (and thousands more).

After our trip, Pete put into motion the concept of respite vacations for other young adults facing cancer.  When he passed away, I put FPS in Pete’s obituary and FPS was officially born!  I remember being lonely, frightened and afraid as I sat in the funeral home and included FPS in his notice.  I faced the future without Pete and was devastated.  I returned to my job as an attorney and was paralyzed by life.  One day, after FPS was receiving calls for help from cancer patients and caregivers, I made the bold decision to leave my job and dedicate my life to For Pete’s Sake.

We work with oncology professionals who nominate their adult cancer patients (between 24-50, with all cancer types) for a respite vacation.  Each patient travels with his/her caregiver and their children if applicable.  The respites are typically a week long, although some respites are shorter due to the patient’s health or work circumstances.  We own two homes near Orlando, Florida and rely on donated accommodations from private home donors and resorts such as Apple Vacations, Woodloch Resort and The Greenbrier.  We cover most expenses, including airfare, car rental and amusement tickets and gift a cash stipend for incidental expenses incurred while on respite – our goal is to make each respite vacation as cost-free and carefree as possible!  When the patient returns, we make them a special photo keepsake and provide emotional support as needed.

Can you talk about the impact the organization has on people with cancer?

The best thing to give to a cancer patient and their loved ones is a cost-free, care-free break from the cancer experience. For almost 15 years, our respites have strengthened family relationships, created and improved channels for communication, generated more positive outlooks on life and resulted in improved patient compliance with treatment. Collectively, the psycho-social impact of respite travel has equipped families with the coping skills necessary to continue the long journey with cancer that lies ahead for so many.  Not only is FPS a strong believer in collaboration with oncology professionals, but FPS ensures patients and caregivers have access to ancillary support services, additional financial resources and bereavement help. When travelers come home from an FPS respite, they are forever a part of the FPS community of compassionate, caring people always willing to help alleviate the pain associated with cancer.

Often, when the immediate family is scheduled for a respite, FPS receives notes of gratitude from other extended family members who have exhausted all means to help up to this juncture. Parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, neighbors, professional colleagues all witness firsthand the hope and healing that takes place the moment a respite becomes a realistic possibility for a young family. Additionally, the oncology team takes comfort in being able to deliver the good news of a scheduled break from treatment instead of the medical news of the norm. In effect, the entire community surrounding the patient benefits from the respite experience.

What advice would you give someone who is trying to support a friend who has been newly diagnosed?

Listen to them. Let them be scared, uncertain, angry, upset and just give them that shoulder to lean on. Each person has a different set of needs but the one thing that almost everyone wants is to be heard. Find small acts of kindness to bring joy to their world.  Drop off dinner, take them some funny movies, keep their spirits lifted! Perhaps send them a TREATmint box J

And don’t forget to reach out to their caregiver. A caregiver has stress and worries as well, and they are often the unsung heroes of the cancer world.

What’s the most personally gratifying aspect of your work?

Our work is so gratifying in many different ways, it’s hard to choose just one! One of the things that inspires me is the way that people who traveled in 2000 on the very first respites continue to stay connected to our mission. Our Gala was last Saturday, and a woman named Caitlin volunteered for the event.  She was 10 when we sent her family on one of our first respite vacations to Sea Isle City, NJ 15 years ago.  Her dad, Bob, was sick and sadly passed away.  But she keeps his memory alive by volunteering for FPS!  She doesn’t need to give back like that, but she chooses to generously give of her time. I think that reflects the impact of our mission in a very unique way. The seeds of kindness that are planted with these respite vacations continue to grow and spread more kindness in unexpected ways.

How can people support the work you do and get involved?

Anyone inspired by our mission can make a tax deductible donation online at www.takeabreakfromcancer.org.  We also host 4 major special events each year, including a big walk at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on April 19th.  Additionally, we have an abundance of volunteer opportunities and are also skilled at helping our community ambassadors create their own fun fundraising events!  Check out our website for more details or feel free to give me a call at anytime: 267-708-0510. Thanks so much for this opportunity to share our mission![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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