‘Unsung Heroes’ help Dana-Farber families in greatest need over the holidays

Dana-Farber employees Hadassah Herrera, a resource specialist, and Rachel Allende, LICSW, a lead social worker, see firsthand the difference that small acts of kindness can make for families facing a cancer diagnosis, especially during the holiday season.

Together, they work to coordinate Dana-Farber’s Holiday Patient Assistance program, which provides support for patients and families in critical financial need.

“Our role is to help mitigate some of the social, cultural, and financial stressors faced by our patients during their cancer journey,” Hadassah shares. “The goal is to bring warmth and light to patients and their families not just during the holiday season, but all year long.”

Hadassah has a quote in her office from Buddha that reads: “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” To her, it illustrates how much stronger we are when we rely on each other.

Hadassah, pictured in her office at Dana-Farber.

Through the many shared moments of kindness and happiness, there is one in particular that sticks out to Hadassah. She was working with a patient who was recently diagnosed and having a hard time keeping up with household bills because she had to take time off work due to her treatments. The family’s budget was overextended to the point where her daughter was wearing shoes and clothes that were two sizes too small.

“Through the Holiday Patient Assistance program, we were able to get them a gift card that allowed the family to purchase clothing and other necessities while still having enough left over for a nice Christmas dinner. Her excitement was simply contagious and that’s what the holiday season is all about—spreading joy, not just for your family, but for others,” Hadassah shares.

For Rachel, who works directly with patients to ensure their psychosocial health during treatment, helping patients and their families during the holidays is just as meaningful.

“For some patients, this will be their last holiday season with their family,” she says. “In those cases, when we can give something concrete and tangible because of the Holiday Patient Assistance program, it helps make it special for them. It’s an opportunity to have some normalcy and celebration.”

Rachel Allende

The Holiday Patient Assistance Program, funded through generous donations from our Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund community, provides gift cards to help our patients and families put a holiday meal on the table, purchase gas to travel to and from appointments, or buy small gifts for loved ones. All donations go directly to those in critical financial need.

Hadassah and Rachel work closely to coordinate this program and make the holidays special for our patients. We are grateful for the work they do and are proud to spotlight them as Unsung Heroes of Dana-Farber, a program in partnership with our longtime friends at Arbella Insurance to highlight our behind-the-scenes stars.

Make a gift to this year’s Holiday Patient Assistance program. Your donation of any amount will have an immediate and lasting impact on the hundreds of Dana-Farber families in greatest need.

Read more about a few of our Unsung Heroes of Dana-Farber. Every day, they are making a difference for patients and families.