This article by Bonnie Riva Ras was originally published on Goodnet.
Making hospital patients feel beautiful is the mission of the nonprofit Simply From the Heart. But it is much more than just providing glam. The organization’s volunteers – called the glam squad – lift spirits and self-esteem wherever they go.
Illinois based Simply From the Heart sends the glam squad to pamper long-term patients in hospitals throughout the US with hairstyling, manicures, makeovers, facials, and more importantly providing hope to people fighting cancer or chronic illnesses, according to the blog Women For One.
The cosmetics and nail polish are actually tools to get the patients to open up and talk from the heart. The organization’s founder, Jackelyn Kastanis, is determined to help people forget about labels and diagnoses, at least for a little while, through these pampering sessions.
The inspiration for Simply From the Heart
Kastanis founded the organization after her childhood best friend Brooke Bolley died of cancer at a young age, reported CBS News. When Brooke became ill, Kastanis dropped everything to support her.
“She was told at 27 years old she had a year to live. Once I found out she was very sick I came home and I took up residency with her in her hospital room,” Kastanis told CBS News. “And I realized it was a very stale environment, it was very sad on her psyche. There was nothing to kind of motivate her to feel like herself and to feel pretty.
“And so, I brought hair [products] and makeup and tried anything to lift her spirits,” Kastanis said. “And she, believe it or not, started taking less morphine, and it changed her entire persona.”
Losing her best friend gave Kastanis a new perspective on what it means to help restore dignity and quality of life to people who are facing long-term illnesses. She wanted to replicate this experience for others by starting the organization and the glam squad volunteers.
About the Glam Squad
Since its founding in 2014 in just one state, the nonprofit’s volunteers that Kastanis calls her “glam girls” fill boxes with 30 beauty products that are donated by people and companies and take them to people in hospitals in 15 cities across the US. They have already been given to more than 7,000 patients. and these visits have transformed their lives.
“One patient, I remember her saying, ‘These girls healed me in a way the doctors could not.’ And I think that spoke a lot to us,’ said Kastanis. ‘You know, we have our doctors and they keep us alive. But emotionally, we all want our souls to feel sparked up to get us through.”
The volunteers are the heart of the organization and are composed of professionals and lay people who are passionate about the mission, according to the blog. They are also transformed by the experience.
During my time volunteering with Simply From the Heart, I’ve often wondered, ‘Who’s helping whom here?’ I’ve felt so fulfilled and rewarded during the visits. A symbiotic relationship is formed during the experience,” Lindsey Shaw, a glam squad member shared in the blog.
“I’ve been reminded how lucky I am to be healthy, how great it feels to brighten someone’s day, how strong and positive these people are in the face of life’s biggest test, and how, really, we are all the same,” she said.
Simply From the Heart, and the dedicated glam squad, they are proving the gift of making people feel beautiful and positive about themselves. This is the best medicine for the soul!
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- Simply From The Heart. “Simply from the Heart’s UIC Highlights Produced by Windy City Live ABC7.” YouTube, YouTube, 18 Feb. 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GonOAlu5yQM. ↩