Employee Elves Bring Holiday Cheer to Dana-Farber Patients

The 2013 Dana-Farber Seasonal Giving planning team, including Co-Chairs Ellen Casey-Magleby and Deb Toffler

For many, the holiday season is a time of gift-giving, warm meals, and celebration. But, for families with limited financial resources who are dealing with cancer treatment, the holidays can be overwhelming and stressful. That’s where Ellen Casey-Magleby and Deborah Toffler, MSW, LCSW, come in.

Casey-Magleby, program administrator for Social Work, and Toffler, director of Patient and Family Programs and Services, lead Dana-Farber’s Seasonal Giving Program, which provides holiday support to current Dana-Farber patients and their families in need of financial assistance. The program is fueled by Institute employees and external donors, with the goal of giving patients gift cards to purchase gifts, gas, and food for themselves and their families. Casey-Magleby and Toffler also match those patients who are too sick to shop with external donors, who purchase items off of wish lists created by patients and their families.

“It’s about helping families create lasting memories,” says Casey-Magleby, who has led the program with Toffler since 2009. The two are no strangers to helping Dana-Farber patients, having worked at the Institute for 15 and 10 years, respectively. Their main focus is to make resources and services easily accessible for patients and their family members.

“One of the reasons I love working here is that Dana-Farber values efforts like this for patients and families,” says Casey-Magleby. “This program can have an immediate impact on patients and help remove a layer of worry during this time of year.”

Seasonal Giving began organically as social workers and resource specialists noticed growing needs in the patient population. It started involving Dana-Farber employees six years ago, when a staff member suggested sponsoring patients with limited financial resources. In 2013, Casey-Magleby and Toffler brought together more than 700 employees, volunteers, and friends, who helped 196 patients currently in treatment, and their families. This year, they hope to bring holiday cheer to more than 240 active adult and pediatric patients and families at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, and Dana-Farber’s growing network of satellite centers.

The 2014 Dana-Farber Seasonal Giving team.

“Staff often share with us how moved they are by the power of giving through this program. It brings people at Dana-Farber together in so many ways,” says Toffler, who notes that although the program has grown through the years, it maintains its special, grassroots feel. “We witness and experience really touching moments from everybody involved.”

All of the funds raised through Seasonal Giving are given directly to patients, and not all gifts are monetary. Donning festive holiday gear, Casey-Magleby and Toffler lead a group of “elves” – employees and other volunteers – who donate their time to wrapping gift cards for patients celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, and other winter holidays.

“There is something remarkably humbling and special about learning our patients’ individual needs,” says Toffler. “This is one small way we can let our patients and their families know we care about them.”
Learn more about how to help Dana-Farber patients and families in need through our Seasonal Giving Program: www.myJimmyFundpage.org/give/seasonalgiving14.