Pay it Forward: All Shades of Pink backs breast cancer patients

GLENN DALE, Md. (NewsChannel 8) - Pink and white petunias line the edge of Carolyn Barnes’ front yard. She wears three beaded bracelets on on her left arm, made out of silver and pink beads. The tips of her manicured nails, they’re pink too, complimented by swirls of nail art.

“That’s right, everything pink,”she said.

Carolyn Barnes is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer in 2004.

“I have never had breast cancer,” her friend Denice Whalen-White said as she crocheted a pink and white blanket. “It was one of those things that I had other friends going through breast cancer.”

Breast cancer helped these two women form a friendship. Whalen-White left her job at a law firm after 27 years with the disease heavy on her heart.

“I just wanted to do something different and with that I formed a non-profit and it was called All Shades of Pink,” she said.

The idea came to her in 2007 and as she was preparing to start the organization she told Carolyn.

“That's when I told her I had breast cancer. I said ‘Denice I'm a breast cancer survivor, I can help you. I know what we can do. I know where we can carry our blankets, comfort blankets.'”

‘Comfort blankets’ for women battling breast cancer was at the heart of All Shades of Pink. The blankets were all crocheted by volunteers to four feet across and four feet long specifications so that they’re easy for patients to carry to appointments.

All Shades of Pink now has a network of 150 volunteer blanket makers and is currently partnered with 5 area hospitals. The blankets are delivered to each hospital where they are given out by the staff. Each package includes a flyer with information about All Shades of Pink. According to their website the group has given out 2,300 blankets to nine area hospitals since 2008.

“The blankets we make, because that was the easy thing to do, but what I really wanted to do was help people on a more financial basis,” Whalen-White said.

Thanks to fundraising and partnerships All Shades of Pink has existed has been able to provide financial support in addition to the cozy blankets.

“We will pay up to five hundred dollars for anyone that needs help in making sure they have their utilities in place while they're going through breast cancer,” Whalen-White said.

The support doesn’t stop there, especially from Barnes. “I have talked to different ladies,” Barnes said, “ because a lot of them want someone to talk to that [has] had breast cancer and I tell them talk about it, don't keep it inside, you have to let it go.”

Whalen-White said All Shades of Pink has already exceeded her expectations.

“I really thought it was going to be something very, very small, that maybe we [help] about 20 people a year. But this has grown to something where we are helping 30 to 45 people a year.”