Left to right: Tara Brewster and Jean Einstein, co-president of the Board of Directors of Cancer Connection, pose for a photo at last year’s bed in event.
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

NORTHAMPTON — The 2024 Bed In for Cancer Connection takes place on Friday, April 5 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Greenfield Savings Bank’s newly-renovated location at 325 King St. in Northampton. The event is hosted by Tara Brewster, the vice president of Business Development and Director of Philanthropy at Greenfield Savings Bank.

The Bed In will feature special guests, music, food, storytelling, prizes and lots of surprises throughout the day. There will be a live broadcast from WRSI 93.9 and a live stream on YouTube as Brewster will talk from a bed at the bank provided by Andy’s Oak Shoppe.

“We invite people to stop by, say hello, enjoy delicious food from local restaurants, listen to live music, and learn more about what Cancer Connection offers to the community,” said Cancer Connection Executive Director Chelsea Kline. “Our goal is to raise $60,000 this year, and I hope people take away from this event is that Cancer Connection is a place to find strength, and we are here for the Community.”

She continued, “The Bed In is also a chance for the community to support these vital services. We’re so grateful to Greenfield Savings Bank for their Community Challenge grant of $15,000 to make the Bed In happen.”

Founded in 2000, Cancer Connection provides a warm haven for people with cancer diagnosis and their loved ones can learn how to navigate the complicated cancer journey through one-to-one guidance, education, peer support, integrative therapies and creative programs to strengthen body and spirit. The organization offers therapies such as massage, reiki and acupuncture. They also have a variety of support groups, which are free of charge for people living with a cancer diagnosis, their families, and caregivers, as well as one-on-one emotional support called “befriending” and special programs like cooking classes, art workshops and all sorts of educational, enriching and fun ways to learn, connect, and find support. All services are free of charge, and it is the only independent cancer support center in Hampshire and Franklin counties and draws additional participants from Hampden County and beyond. Many of their support groups are hybrid, meaning that people have the option of attending remotely over Zoom or in-person.

Kline was a caregiver for her mother who went through cancer 20 years ago and was a participant at Cancer Connection. Even though they had just moved to Western Massachusetts, her mother was able to get support. It was such a relief for Kline as her daughter, knowing that her mother had a place where she could be helped and heard.

“Cancer Connection is a place to find strength, even when things feel really hard,” Kline said. “My hope is to help Cancer Connection to grow and help even more people. Sadly, the rate of cancer diagnoses keeps rising, so even more and more people will be touched by these awful diseases, and we strive to lessen the pain, fear and loneliness that often comes along with a diagnosis.”

Years ago, radio host Monte Belmonte started a camp out for Cancer Connection, he set up a tent on the courthouse lawn in the center of downtown Northampton to raise money for Cancer Connection. The idea was to create a fun event that would get attention, raise awareness and help raise money for Cancer Connection’s vital services. During COVID-19, Belmonte adapted his beloved Camp Out to a Bed In in order to make an equally fun and interesting event. Now he has joined New England Public Media and has passed the torch to Brewster.

“We are so grateful to Monte and now Tara for making this such a fun event,” Kline added.

Brewster has had a long personal story of dealing with cancer, depression and loss. When she was in high school, her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and she subsequently died during Brewster’s senior year in 1997.

Although Cancer Connection was not around in 1997, Brewster later came to realize the importance of an organization like this that provides free services not only to the patients that are going through cancer, but also to their caregivers.

“It’s a gem of a nonprofit,” Brewster said. “It’s a beacon of light to our community and a lifesaver for so many people that are going through a hard diagnosis. This event showcases how people and businesses are stepping up to say what can I do and how can I get involved.”

She went on to say, “I feel blessed to be employed by Greenfield Savings Bank and have their support for so many of these types of endeavors in our community. It’s not about giving money or volunteering. It’s thinking about what do I have to offer, how can I show up authentically and what can I give of myself to highlight and assist another person or organization where we live.”

Cancer Connection is located at 41 Locust St. Donate online on their website at www.cancer-connection.org/donate. For questions, call 413-586-1642 or email info@cancer-connection.org.