By Katherine Mansfield
WASHINGTON, Pa. — Born of the grieving process was Elana’s Blessings, a Washington-based nonprofit co-founded in 2015 by Jessica Seger Hilker and her brother David Seger, to honor their late mother, Elana, who died in 2014 following a 16-year battle with breast cancer.
During that battle, Elana Seger continued dressing up, doing her hair and makeup when she went out, even to her treatments.
“After she passed, I realized that was her way of … being normal, for lack of better terms. You lose your hair, you lose your eyebrows. Unfortunately some lose their breasts. There’s nothing normal about it. It was her way of hiding all the effects that were happening to her that she didn’t want anyone to see,” Seger Hilker said.
Elana’s Blessings, which serves the Washington County, Pa., and Cleveland, Ohio, regions, offers beauty sessions to women battling any form of cancer, so they can feel as much themselves as possible while navigating a world of doctor’s appointments, treatments and uncertainty.
Friends, family and community members may nominate a woman battling cancer on Elana’s Blessings website, and choose the package appropriate for that woman’s journey. Nominations are open to women at any stage of cancer, from the newly diagnosed to those who have fought for years and need a pick-me-up.
“Everybody’s diagnosis is different. We can tailor each package to whatever that person’s needs are,” said Seger Hilker.
All packages include an Elana’s Blessings robe and tumbler, a compression bra, notebook and Beauty Counter products. Wig packages come with a gift card to community partner Studio 7, to put toward the purchase of a wig, while mastectomy and spa packages include pillows or spa gift cards.
Elana’s Blessings fits women for bras and partners with local hospitals and oncology units to provide pre-op mastectomy packages or literature that guides women through their journeys.
“Big picture: I would love to have a space where women could meet for support groups, and be able to have everything under one umbrella. I wish I could educate them in more ways,” Seger Hilker said.
She’d also love to partner with local nonprofits who share the common goal of helping individuals navigate a cancer diagnosis.
Next year, Seger Hilker plans to again host an Elana’s Blessings gala, which has been on a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Until then, Elana’s Blessings welcomes donations big and small online through PayPal or via check through U.S. Postal mail.
“One of the biggest things in our mission is to create a sense of support and community. The strength that these women are enduring in their battle is extremely courageous. To be able to support them with the resources they need, I feel would be very comforting for me if I was in that situation,” Seger Hilker said. “Helping all these women and giving them the support that they need helps create the commitment we want to give to the community.”
Katherine Mansfield is a reporter for the Herald-Standard of Uniontown. Helping the Helpers is a joint effort between the Herald-Standard and the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Email her at [email protected].