Since 2004, Stewart’s Caring Place has been a refuge for cancer patients

Stewart Group 620
Betsy Marchetta’s (seated center with cream sweater and sunglasses) friends and family supported her on the 2019 Hope Walk to raise money to help families affected by cancer.

By Laura Briedis

Just a couple days before passing away, Betsy Marchetta called her friend Bunny Oldham from her hospital bed and left a voicemail urging her to go to Stewart’s Caring Place to get support for her family’s cancer journey that was just starting.

A long-time supporter of this nonprofit, Betsy wanted to make sure others were taken care of like she was.

That’s the type of relationships forged at Stewart’s Caring Place.

When Bunny’s 18-year-old daughter, Molly, was diagnosed with brain cancer last summer, she thought she could handle it on her own.

“I’m a very independent person and we have a strong family support system, so I didn’t think I needed any outside help,” says Bunny. “I did drive to Stewart’s Caring Place two times and just sat in the parking lot and never went inside. I thought other people needed help more than me, and I would just be taking up services others needed. Finally, after listening again to Betsy’s voicemail urging me to seek help, I drove there for the third time and finally went inside.”

It was one of the best decisions she made. Not only did her daughter get the support she needed, with one-on-one counseling, massage therapy and wig fitting, but, just as importantly, the family also received support.

Oftentimes people forget about other family member and caregivers, but this nonprofit’s mission is to support everyone affected by cancer.

“I found out my youngest daughter was struggling the most, and I would not have realized that if we did not do a group therapy session,” says Bunny. “I was focusing so much on Molly that I was not paying enough attention to my other daughters.”

Free Programs and Services
Founded on the belief that there is more to cancer than chemotherapy and surgery, Stewart’s Caring Place gives cancer patients hope, helps them thrive—and supports the entire family.

Inspired by Dr. Stewart Surloff’s struggles and triumphs during his cancer journey, his wife, Mimi, created Stewart’s Caring Place in 2004 to provide other cancer patients, their families and caregivers a relaxed and caring environment that offers myriad services and programs.

Stewart’s Caring Place founder Mimi Surloff, center, at last year’s Butterfly Gala. The nonprofit organization’s biggest fundraiser, this year’s Gala is set for Saturday, August 1, 2020.

“Our cancer wellness center helps people navigate the journey after a cancer diagnosis and treatment as a continuum of care,” says Executive Director Jeannine Marks, who has been with the organization since its inception.

Its scope is far-reaching, as thousands of families take advantage of the programs and services at no cost every year. The center offers more than 150 programs and services, including one-on-one counseling, group therapy and a resource library filled with reliable information.

With a focus on health and wellness, the center also offers yoga group classes, nutrition counseling, massage therapy, aromatherapy facials and so much more—at no cost.

The center also has a wig and beauty room with free wigs, hats and scarves. “We work with area hospitals and doctors who refer patients to us after a diagnosis,” says Jeannine. “Oftentimes, the wig room is the gateway to our organization, as patients come in for wigs and then see all we have to offer.”

For Angel Whorton, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last fall, finding the perfect wig was more about feeling better than just looking better.

“When I first started to lose my hair, I was okay with it as it was part of the journey,” says Angel. “But, at the same time, I wanted to feel more like me—spunky and energetic. So I wanted a wig that would look and feel more like me.”

She went to Stewart’s wig room with her husband, brother and mom to find a wig.

“I tried on everything from the blondest of blondes to the blackest of black wigs, and ended up leaving with a blue and black wig,” says Angel. “The wigs allow me to feel like myself, as I get to pick out me and who I want to become during this journey.”

Outreach During the Pandemic
During Covid-19, when the center had to adapt its services, the staff found creative ways to continue to serve the community. Though its wig room is temporarily closed, it offers curbside wig pickup.

The staff devised a color-matching system in which you give them a photo and they pick out some wig styles for you—just like a personal shopper—and leave them curbside for you to bring home and try on.

Stewart’s Caring Place also has been reimagining its events. Its popular children’s camp has been recast as Summer Camp at Home. Packed with age appropriate activities for kids ages five to 15, campers pick up a free camp kit packed with activities and coordinating tutorials and fun surprises for the week-long camp.

Children can sign up for the virtual camp held Monday, July 6, through Friday, July 10, or Monday, August 3, through Friday, August 7, by registering by email or phone.

“We will still get the children together virtually during the week utilizing Zoom,” says Colleen Iacianci, director of development. “Summer Camp is a way for children affected by cancer to have fun and be artistic.”

The camp includes crafts, outdoor activities and snacks, which are sent home in the camp kits.

“Our mission has always been to provide a caring, relaxed environment offering supportive services and programs at no cost to individuals and families touched by cancer,” says Jeannine. “But now that comforting place is at home.”

Currently the center is providing counseling over the phone, but as the center slowly reopens, the staff will resume in-person, one-on-one counseling sessions, small support groups and events such as outdoor yoga and fitness strength classes.

“We are taking extra precautions since we serve people with immunocompromised systems,” says Jeannine.

A Bigger Facility
Stewart’s Caring Place will be moving down one exit off I-77 in Copley into a brand new facility this fall. Currently under construction, it is being designed to create more of a spa-like atmosphere for the ultimate stress-free and welcoming place.

When the new center is completed this fall, Stewart’s Caring Place will expand to 12,000 square feet, offering more programs and services to the community.

Almost doubling its size to 12,000 square feet, the center will host counseling, workshops, events and family programming.

“We have been renting our current facility for these past years,” says Jeannine.

Almost doubling its size to 12,000 square feet, the center will host counseling, workshops, events and family programming.

“Now, thanks to our capital campaign and generous donations from the community, we will own our new facility and will be able to offer even more programming and services.”

Here’s What Families are Saying

“Stewart’s Caring Place gave me a safe place to talk without feeling judged, and a place where I never felt like ‘the girl with cancer.’ I was always accepted for who I was and was given a place to feel comfort and support through actions of love and understanding. The family that I gained was something I wouldn’t change for the world, especially Beverly. She made the process of dealing with cancer so much lighter for me, and for that I am forever thankful.” —Molly Oldham, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 18 and is now cancer-free
“The day I found out I had breast cancer the nurse told me about Stewart’s Caring Place and everything was a blur so I went there for some clarity. I was met with love and support. When I was greeted by so many smiles, I knew that everything would be okay.
I went to group counseling and learned so much from the group of ladies, which gave me the strength to be an advocate for myself. I learned to fight for services I needed, get a second opinion and find a doctor who listened to me.
I also used other services the center offers, like its resource library, free wigs and Reiki treatments.
I am looking forward to giving back after I make it through this.” —Angel Whorton, an Akron resident who is being featured in the Portraits of a Pandemic photography series
“Stewart’s is a place that makes you feel comfortable and welcome. Too many patients are forced to battle cancer alone and do not have the support of family, friends or a community. Stewart’s provides patients and caregivers with that structure and is a reliable resource to lean on during the most uncertain days of your life." —Michael Allio, whose wife, Laura, passed away in early 2019 of breast cancer
“The months following completed cancer treatment are unexpectedly difficult for the family and patient. Everything is supposed to go back to normal, yet it doesn’t. During treatment, you feel like you are ‘doing something’ to fight cancer. Post treatment, everything catches up, the bills pile up, the lack of sleep catches up and the emotions that were pushed aside during the thick of treatment can rear their ugly head.
There is no one-size-fits-all guidebook on how to deal with life post-cancer treatment. However, the staff and resources at Stewart’s Caring Place offer families what they need, when they need it, in their own time. Stewart’s was the one constant we could depend on to provide a judgment-free zone of compassion and understanding." —Bunny Oldham, mother of daughter who was diagnosed with cancer

14th Annual Hope Walk
Instead of hundreds gathering together for the annual Hope Walk, participants walked on their own, whether around the neighborhood or in a park, on Saturday, May 9, to raise money to support programs and services at Stewart’s Caring Place for families touched by cancer.

More than 700 supporters walked at home, donated and had fun with the Selfie Scavenger Hunt contest.

Many families right here in Northeast Ohio, including the Donohue family, pictured above, participated in our Hope Walk at Home 2020.

This new format of the Hope Walk at Home allowed participants from out of state to join, like Greg, who lives in Indiana and walked in support of his sister.

“My wife and I walked here in Indianapolis and very much enjoyed doing so on behalf of this organization,” he says.

“Their caring and assistance was invaluable, especially due to the fact that all of us live in Indianapolis. They more than compensated for our absence. As a cancer survivor myself, a caregiver’s love, compassion, companionship and assistance is all too often underestimated by those never having been faced with the circumstances.”

The Reimagined Butterfly Gala for 2020

Stewart’s Caring Place is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The center is located at 2955 West Market Street, Suite R, in Akron. For more information, call 330-836-1772 or visit