We Care Totes

In 2016, Karen Lewis heard about a group in Brodhead, Wisconsin who funded bags of items for cancer patients with money raised from a charity golf scramble. She was immediately smitten with the idea and brought the idea to the “Let’s Tee Off Against Breast Cancer” committee. “We ordered totes from the Howard Young Medical Center gift shop, added the items, and We Care Totes was born,” Karen said. 

Each bag, worth $150, is filled with personal care and comfort items that help sustain dignity and relieve anxiety. Nurse navigators from James Beck Cancer Center in Rhinelander and Marshfield Clinic in Minocqua have distributed almost 300 totes to breast cancer patients in the Northwoods since 2017.

Breast cancer patients who receive the totes are more than appreciative. They are genuinely moved.

“Being given that tote was the bright light in the darkness because I was dreading the surgery, radiation treatments, the fact that I had cancer, and that it could come back,” said breast cancer survivor Sharon Gabinski. “Then suddenly here is this nice gift from people I don't even know. I could cry right now just thinking about it. It was so thoughtful.”

Sharon has been cancer-free since March. To express her appreciation for the tote bag, she made a gift to the Howard Young Foundation in 2018 for We Care Totes and the 3D mammography machine for Ascension Eagle River Hospital. She became a member of the Bonhomie Club and in 2019 gave another gift to the Foundation.

The community is supportive of We Care Totes as well. “I've probably gotten six or seven checks from new people in the last year who heard about our We Care Totes program and wanted it to continue,” Karen recounted. “Those donations ranged from $50 to $500 each.”


All proceeds from the golf outing are deposited with the Foundation to help support breast cancer patients. This fundraiser is a great example of how giving isn’t limited to writing a check; it can also be organizing and operating a fundraiser to benefit a health-related charity and working with the Foundation to manage the funds.

“Surplus funds from our golf outings have been matched by Ascension and donated to Ascension Eagle River Hospital for their 3D mammogram machine. It was over $50,000.00,” said Karen. “We have also purchased new robes for the mammogram department at the James Beck Cancer Center.”

There are many ways you can support breast cancer patients including making a gift directly to the Foundation and participating in the “Let’s Tee Off Against Breast Cancer” golf outing. 

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