TAMPA, Fla. — Mary Ann Massolio remembers the pain and isolation her son, Jay, experienced after being diagnosed with cancer at the age of nine.
“When you have a child with cancer it’s exceptionally isolating and alienating. I can tell you that,” said Massolio. “It’s really hard because they really feel left out.”
Massolio’s son died six months after his diagnosis. That was over two decades ago. Next month, the 30-year veteran pediatric oncology social worker is set to open the 1Voice Foundation school for students dealing with cancer. Over 800 families are currently being served by the foundation and nearly 40 are enrolled in some form of tutoring.
Those students got an unexpected pick-me-up this week.
“To have the cards made by other children makes it really, really special,” said Massolio.
Children from across town at St. John’s Episcopal Day School hand-made valentines for the 1Voice students. Cards were bright pink and red and featured thoughtful notes of encouragement.
“When somebody has cancer, they are sad,” said a kindergartener.
The notes were stuffed into bags prepared by The Giving Girls, a “voluntary, non-profit organization” based in Tampa Bay which distributes donations to charities. The bags were filled with candy and even a book about handling cancer in your family.
The cards were the best part, says Massolio.
“Some of them are super cute. One of them that stands out was the thumbprint and it said ‘Thumb-body loves you.' We were all cracking up.”
The 1Voice Foundation offers a Tutoring program for Pediatric Cancer patients and siblings in preschool through 12th grade. Massolio hopes to open the doors to a permanent school location next month. The 1Voice Foundation partnered with Rotary’s Camp Florida, to provide educational and emotional support at their 22 acre Camp.
“I think they’ll do it again. They were so special. I’m not going to be surprise if they get Easter cards,” said Massolio.
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