Christmas is music, stockings and love for cancer patients

Maryann Makekau | Special to The Log
Hope Matters visited Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and brought joy, music and stockings to all the cancer patients who were spending the holidays in the hospital. SPECIAL TO THE LOG

A welcome distraction, a chance to make someone smile and erase the pain; an opportunity to make a tangible difference ... that is the essence of the stocking project.

The stocking project was begun by my friend Taira Baughman as a way to love other patients through cancer at Christmas. She didn't want anyone feeling alone or left out at, so she initiated the stocking project and invited friends to help. It took hold in people's hearts, and is still repeated, in various locations each year. This will be our sixth year of carrying out her tradition to deliver love in stockings at Christmas. Though she is no longer with us, her legacy remains.

Here in Fort Walton Beach, a group has come together every year since 2011 to demonstrate that Hope Matters (synonymous with the name of my organization). My team of volunteers, random donors, and hospital staff collaborate to fill stockings with items that make hospital stays more tolerable, and even a little fun, albeit Christmastime.

One of the most touching aspects of this project is the fact that most of our volunteers have either fought cancer or are currently receiving cancer treatment. To them, this is a welcome distraction, a chance to make someone smile and erase pain, an opportunity to make a tangible difference. We may not see each other for 11 months of the year, and then when December comes there is this instant connection — like we all met up just yesterday. That is the heart of what I believe Taira had hoped for, to see love transcend time and circumstance. The stocking project emulates pure kindness and giving for the sake of making someone else's life a little better.

Perhaps, it will even bring people to an ease about cancer. Too many patients don't receive visitors because people are afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing ... when all that's needed is for them to share love.

On Dec. 19, 24 volunteers, including two musicians, a photographer, Santa himself, plus two nurses and the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center came together to deliver stockings .. and abundant love ... to 33 patients.

Maryann Makekau from Fort Walton Beach is an author and inspirational speaker, and founder of Hope Matters.