Turning tragedy into kindness is no small feat, but one woman from Batavia does just that every year at Roswell Park and throughout her community.
Bonnie Hoag’s mother was a patient at Roswell before passing away on Sept. 9, 2015. “Everyone says this when someone dies, but my mom truly was a thoughtful, generous, amazing person,” Hoag says. “She did kind things for people she didn’t know and for people she did know. Her birthday was coming up and I was dreading it, so I thought, What if we made it a day of happiness?”
So it was decided that on June 12, 2016, Hoag and her husband, Adam, would do 59 random acts of kindness, marking the fact that her mother would have been 59 on her birthday that year. Every year since, the tradition has gotten bigger and bigger.
“We did 61 acts of kindness last year and over 80 this year,” Hoag says. “We do them all over — at nursing homes, fire departments. We do anything we can think of, like paying for people’s lunches. Other people have gotten involved; I have a good support system in the community. My mom was so loved by so many.”
At Roswell, Hoag has left bottles of water, baskets of snacks, and blankets in different locations for people to enjoy. “It can be cold in the hospital,” she explains. “We stop and talk to families in the Intensive Care Unit, and it’s easy to form bonds with people there. We leave envelopes with meal vouchers for the staff at the front desk to give to people.” The Hoags have also left money at the parking garage to surprise patients and visitors with free parking on their way out.
“I think everyone can relate to it,” Hoag says. “Most people have been touched by cancer in their life, unfortunately. My mom fought and didn’t win, but if there was any place she had a chance to win, it was at Roswell.”
As far as setting out and doing the random acts of kindness, Hoag said it’s something anyone and everyone can do. “Everyone has a helpful heart, but people don’t always think to actually do those types of things. It makes you feel good when you’re doing it, and people aren’t used to having something kind done for them. The world needs more of that.”
Hoag said she plans to continue her tradition of doing random acts of kindness at Roswell and throughout her community each June.
“My kids are into it, and they have fun helping,” she says. “They were really close with my mom and know what a great person she was, so this makes them feel good, like, ‘We can’t give Granny a birthday gift, but we can do this in her honor.’ So as long as I’m healthy enough, we’ll keep doing it, and even after that, my family will keep it going.”
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Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.