Years from now, we will look back at 2023 as a very important year for The Hand to Heart Project. We saw more clients with cancer than we had in any other year, our team of massage therapists grew to 15 (and is about to grow again), we were blessed with tremendous financial support from individuals, foundations and trusts, and we began the process of formulating a vision of what we want Hand to Heart to look like in the future.
Dec. 31 marked the end of our annual fall fundraising campaign, and this year we set ourselves a goal that was ambitious and, I thought, possibly unattainable. We hoped to raise $60,000 from our annual appeal letter and other sources over the last quarter of the calendar year. That is more than 20 percent above what we raised last year, and thanks in part to the largest number of individual donors we have ever had in one season, we surpassed our goal.
Our budget, though, is a few times that number, so we need the support of several large donors, as well. With that in mind, I want to offer special thanks to the John Brown Cook Foundation, which has been a major supporter of Hand to Heart since the day we began in 2007, not just financially but with unflagging encouragement; to the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, also a major donor since day one; to several donors who give through the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation; and to the many individual supporters who have each given thousands of dollars to help us help people with cancer in more than 100 communities in New Hampshire and Vermont.
The massage therapists working with Hand to Heart are the face of the program to everyone of their clients, and we are so grateful to have an outstanding team. We frequently get notes, comments and testimonials from clients and family members expressing their gratitude. I want to add my heartfelt thanks to them here. If you know any of them, let them know that you appreciate what they do.
Massage therapists working in the Upper Valley area are, in addition to me: Briane Pinkson, Beth Hazlett, Matt Harrington and Robin Williams.
Working in the Keene/Monadnock region are: Season Smith, Carol Knutson, Laurel Boyd and Jenny LaClair.
In central and southern Vermont are: Stephanie Joerke, Anna Maynard, Sandra Hinton, Michelle Durney, Lindsay Post and Kammie Kayl.
They are all doing amazing work.
It’s been almost three years since Kristen Avery joined the staff of Hand to Heart (thereby doubling the size of the admin team). Her work on organization, fundraising and social media have become invaluable. It’s unlikely that you would be reading this message if not for her, and the future of the program is more solid thanks to her efforts.
Not that we didn’t have some challenges and setbacks in 2023. We’ve had more difficulty than expected in finding massage therapists to join the team in areas where we need them. Injuries and illnesses have occasionally kept some of the team from seeing clients for a spell. But we haven’t turned away any potential clients who live in our region and expressed interest, and we don’t expect that to happen this year.
The Hand to Heart Project is no longer the small, local program it was for many years. We’ve grown, we’re still growing, and we have a bright future. It’s a great place to be as we launch into a new year.
My sincere thanks to everyone who has ever made a referral to us; to all the clients who allow us into their lives and their cancer journeys; and to everyone who has ever given us support of any kind. May 2024 bring you joy and peace, and much that you had no idea you needed or wanted.
Steve Gordon, executive director