In 2011, Sandra Gunn donated a week’s stay at her vacation house to a breast cancer patient and her family. It was a way to honor her friend Leslie Twohig, who had passed away from breast cancer earlier that year. The family was so grateful, that Sandra did it again 2012. But it wasn’t until last year, when she was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer and undergoing treatment at AAMC that she understood she had begun something truly special.
“I was in workshops with women who had stage 4 cancer, some who had double mastectomies, some who had no hope,” she says. “I became so touched by their stories and their strength and determination, and I realized what I was doing with Leslie’s Week was serious.”
Recognizing a need that wasn’t being filled, Sandra founded Leslie’s Week as a nonprofit organization to provide a vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee to mothers with incurable breast cancer and their families. The time in the mountains allows families to get away from some of the stress, celebrate life together, build memories and find hope for the future. Everything is provided for them including groceries, tickets to nearby attractions and a community of neighbors ready to help out, if needed.
“There are all kinds of nonprofits for fighting cancer, finding cures, and grants for research, et cetera,” she says. “But there are very few organizations offering support for women who are stage 4 who need it now, and for their children who need the support now.”
To extend the reach of Leslie’s Week, she is working to establish an educational endowment for the children of women who’ve stayed there. “Whether trade school or university or whatever, we want these children to have an education. And we want their mothers to know as they are going through this illness that her children will be looked after and educated. We want her to have hope and to have her children’s future like a song in her heart. That’s what we’re about.”