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'Hugs in a Mug' bring hope and comfort

Sarah Strode will earn Scout's Gold Award for her contributions to help women with breast cancer

Posted: October 15, 2008 7:31 p.m.
Updated: December 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Sara Strode, left, created "Hugs in a Mug" to bring hope and comfort to breast cancer patients. Colleen Shaffer, right, is the founder of Circle of Hope breast cancer support group which will distribute Strode's creation to cancer patients.

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For women suffering from breast cancer the world can look bleak. At first is the scary diagnosis, then comes the surgery, chemo and radiation. For some cancer patients it seems that fear and pain are their only companions.

When 16-year-old Sarah Strode of Santa Clarita learned of what cancer patients endure she designed a special "Hugs in a Mug" gift to give breast cancer patients a touch of comfort - and of hope.

Colleen Shaffer, executive director of Circle of Hope, Inc., a breast cancer support group founded in Newhall, said she is surprised that a 16-year-old could show such compassion and understanding.

"I think it is extraordinary that this 16-year-old is so compassionate and so dedicated to helping others," Shaffer said.

Strode approached Circle of Hope while searching for a special project to complete to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award. The West Ranch High School junior had moved with her family to the Santa Clarita Valley only two years ago. She belongs to Los Angeles Girl Scout Council Troop 538 in Torrance.

"Sarah and her mom (Barbara) have been making the commute back and forth to their old neighborhood in Torrance the entire time so that Sarah could complete her service in Girl Scouts with the same girls she started with years ago," said advisor Noli Wiesen. "If you have ever tried driving to Torrance from Santa Clarita on a weeknight during rush hour, you know what kind of commitment they have made to this award."

However, Strode's commitment wasn't just to a long commute. She also threw herself into the labor intensive project to bring meaningful help to breast cancer patients.

Strode designed her "Hugs in a Mug" to include a cute purse with an adorable packet of tea bags with inspirational quotes, a mug and a hand sewn neck wrap that may be heated or frozen to alleviate muscle aches and tension. The project, which Strode began in the spring, took the teen 70 hours of planning and execution. Strode learned that tea, in addition to its calming effects on individuals with breast cancer, has antioxidants and other medical benefits as well, she also decided that a mug with tea bags would go perfectly with a hand-sewn neck warmer.

Shaffer said the Hugs in a Mug would be distributed to patients seeking assistance from the SCV non-profit which provides breast cancer patients in the SCV with emotional and financial assistance.

"We will be using Hugs in a Mug in our Compassionate Angel Program," Shaffer said. "We give free goodie bags of information and useful products to patients who have just found out they have cancer, or are going through chemo or radiation."

Shaffer said Hugs in a Mug offers more than just physical comfort.

"When someone gives you Hugs in a Mug you know someone cares," she said. "That what hope is about - that someone cares and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Shaffer credited Strode with coming up with the entire concept for Hugs in a Mug after she met with Shaffer and learned about what treatment for breast cancer encompasses.

"This was Sarah's own idea, I just explained to her what a breast cancer patient goes through from chemo to radiation and how each medical treatment has its own woes," Shaffer said. "She created something that is beneficial to cancer patients and creates some sunshine and hope."

The prestigious Gold Award for Girl Scouts is equivalent to an Eagle Scout award for Boy Scouts. It is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn.

Now that Strode has finished her Gold Award project the teen is looking forward to the future.

"The Gold Award will help me get into a good college, and has prepared me for knowing that if I can set a goal and achieve that goal, I can do anything I put my mind to do," she said. Strode is looking forward to a career in real estate after college.

For more information on Circle of Hope, Inc. Visit


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