For Cindy Summers, life changed in an instant. In August 2008, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Hope for a healthy life was stolen away in the blink of an eye.
The Army wife immediately began feeling confused, nervous and discouraged. With no close friends or family members as cancer survivors to offer encouraging stories, Summers was walking alone. “I didn’t have any hope,” she said. “I didn’t have somebody telling me, ‘You can make it through this.’”
After successful rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments and a double mastectomy, Summers now wants to use her story to encourage other women fighting breast cancer and offer them the hope that took so long for her to find.
Summers founded Cindy’s Hope Chest, a nonprofit organization offering financial assistance and emotional encouragement to these women throughout their battle.
Indian Trail is home to the Cindy’s Hope Chest Boutique. The organization offers a variety of local services, including lawn care, housekeeping, transportation, gift baskets, pre-school services, grocery errands, local meal deliveries, and emotional counseling. Any woman battling breast cancer can receive these free of charge.
The boutique also serves as a day-getaway. The women can visit the boutique to relax and read a book. A computer and Wi-Fi is free.
“My goal is to have a beautiful, calm environment for the women going through this and for it always to be free,” Summers said.
Volunteers operate the boutique. Some are breast cancer survivors and former visitors. “I say to the women that visit, ‘Let me help you through this, and once you’re feeling better, come help me help the next person,’” she explained.
As a nonprofit, Cindy’s Hope Chest relies heavily on donations and fundraisers. Summers strives to organize a big fundraiser every couple of months. Last weekend, the Charlotte Checkers hosted an event that raised more than $500.
Summers also partners with a local restaurant every Wednesday evening from 5 until 9 p.m., where part of the proceeds from sales goes to the boutique. This week, the Sonic in Indian Trail was the partner.
Lifetime recently honored Summers for her work with Cindy’s Hope Chest. The network’s Army Wives Gives Back event, hosted by cast members from the popular Army Wives television show, chose Summers to tour Charleston, where the show is filmed. The occasion was videotaped, and the footage aired on Lifetime in October.
Summers enjoyed a full day of shopping, eating famous local food and spending time with actress Sally Pressman.
Lifetime paired up with Yoplait for the event, and the two companies presented Summers with a $5,000 donation to Cindy’s Hope Chest.
In addition, Summers also will enjoy a paid vacation to Hawaii this summer, with her husband, Mike, and daughters Alexa, Savannah, and Madison. “My husband and children got to be there when they told us about the trip,” Summers said. “There were a lot of happy tears that night.”
Cindy’s Hope Chest also will have a chance to win a spot on Scott Clark’s Toyota digital billboard in Charlotte. Summers, who is always looking for free publicity, is excited about this opportunity. “This would be so great for our organization, to get the word out this way,” she said.
Facebook users will have the opportunity to visit www.facebook.com/scottclarktoyota and post votes for Cindy’s Hope Chest through March 31. The 10 local charities with the most votes will win a 30-day spot on the billboard.
Other upcoming events include a golf tournament and speaking and hosting a table at the Union County Relay for Life event, which takes place May 6 at Sun Valley High School. Details regarding the golf tournament aren’t settled.
Cindy’s Hope Chest have proven a boon for Summers, as well as the women the boutique serves. “It’s given me strength, given me hope, given me a very complete and fulfilling feeling,” she said. “I can tell them that this is doable and be there for them.”
Although Cindy’s Hope Chest is only open to breast cancer patients, Summers offers her support for people battling all kinds of cancer whenever she can. She will often sit with patients during their chemo treatments and visit the hospital during their surgery. Summers recently sat with a family during their 7-year-old daughter’s surgery and rejoiced with them when surgeons removed the benign brain tumor.
Summers hopes to expand the work of Cindy’s Hope Chest to multiple locations, and she also hopes to find people suited to run similar oases for people fighting other types of cancer.
“If we had (a Cindy’s Hope Chest) in every state, that would be great,” she said.
Surviving cancer changed Summers. “I’m constantly reminded that life’s a little sweeter than it was before,” she said. “Every day, I thank God for being able to wake up and do everything I got to do during the day.”