4/9/08 We are recreating this venture with the focus on
"Messages of Hope" for people diagnosed with Metastatic Cancer.
Our brand new website is up and awaiting your visits and contributions!
Dragonfly's Delights was set up as a non-profit to benefit the newly diagnosed with breast cancer. We created fabulous gift baskets filled with comforting goodies designed to comfort the mind, body and spirit of the woman who had just heard the horrible words "you have breast cancer".
Dianne Armitage in association with The Breast Care Site wrote a lovely article about our endeavor.
In North American Indian lore, the dragonfly is the essence of the winds of change, representing the messages of wisdom and enlightenment; and communication from the elemental world. The dragonfly possesses the ability to see through illusion. They bring prosperity and harmony. The dragonfly totem teaches skillful action while maintaining a free and joyful sense of being. The dragonfly brings the light and color of transformation into your life. Alice Kitselman's personal totem is the dragonfly, and has been instrumental in helping her to transform the despair and depression surrounding her diagnosis into a meaningful way of helping others.
Alice was born and raised in New York City, where she was surrounded by an amazing array of talented people. As she remembers, "It all started around 30 years ago when my mother placed the water colors in my hands. And since then I've been doing one form of art or another. I was frequently in the company of my mother's artist friends. Painters, writers, and poets, who influenced my early years. Some of these talented people included Jane Freilicher, Red Grooms, Larry Rivers, Alex Katz, John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, James Merril, John Myers, Herbert Machis, Lee Krasner, Theodore White, and Robert Goodenough among many others. Art and its expression were an integral part of making me who I am today!"
She somehow knew when she drove through Santa Fe about 20 years ago that one day it would be her home. Santa Fe is the perfect setting for anyone with an artistic bent. In Santa Fe, an artist's colony is as commonplace as a quilting bee, so it's no surprise Alice calls this place home! She has been a resident since 1992.
Alice's personal transformation began in December of 2000 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as a rare type of bone cancer. She says "cancer, I could hardly believe it. Me, how could I have cancer? Who would have thought? I felt fine. Just went in for my regular gynecologist appointment and bang, she found a lump and told me to get a mammogram. I had never even felt the lump had no idea it was there! Upon further examination, the lump was determined to be suspicious. This was hard news, but the worst was yet to come. A biopsy revealed the lump was indeed cancerous. Luckily, my mother came from New York to be with me when I was diagnosed. I was such a mess, I remember being so scared! I am still thankful she could be with me at that time!"
I want to give these women a moment where they can breathe in love, strength, and hope.
When asked how she got the idea for Dragonfly's Delights, Alice recalls "the first true prompt was literally when I had began my chemo treatments in January of 2001. The day's mail brought with it a lovely anonymous gift. The sender had packed a basket up with homemade jelly, a pine needle sachet, a stuffed moose, a journal, a tape of music she recorded, and a lobster lollipop. All fun things from her home state of Maine. I marveled and delighted in each thoughtful gift she had included. As time passed and I finally ended my chemo treatments, I thought about setting up a non-profit to give the same kind of gift to the newly diagnosed. Our goal is to give these women some pampering that belongs just to them. When we are originally diagnosed, so much is happening it can become immensely overwhelming, and make you feel very alone. I want to give these women a moment where they can breathe in love, strength, and hope."
Dragonfly's Delights is a non-profit venture set up to benefit women just diagnosed with breast cancer. They create beautiful baskets filled with gifts aimed at comforting, soothing, and delighting the woman who has just found out she has breast cancer. Dragonfly Delights currently serves the Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico areas with these free baskets. Their eventual goal is to add more communities as their support network widens.
When asked how the distribution process works, Alice says "one of the first questions people ask is how do we know who is newly diagnosed and how do we get the baskets to them? Our answer is we don't know our recipients. Our baskets are given through local surgeons and the cancer treatment centers in this area."
"The contents of the baskets depend upon what has been donated at any particular time. We always make sure that the general feel of the baskets is one of warmth and caring. We've had donations from people across the US, even internationally. People have donated beautiful handmade cards, journals, eyeglass holders, as well as hand knit and/or crocheted pieces. A typical basket might include:
· A candle as a symbol of hope
· A humorous card to elicit a laugh
· A stuffed animal to comfort
· Poetry to stimulate introspection
· A milagro to inspire miracles
· Luxury bath items to soothe
· Art pieces to symbolize creativity
· A scarf or hat to provide warmth
· Messages of hope by cancer survivors, creating a bond.
Alice goes on to say "we accept all kinds of donations, but our favorite sorts of things are beeswax candles, bath salts, bubble baths, herbal teas, journals, warm socks, hats, scarves, and fuzzy teddy bears. I think you get the idea. We have been very fortunate to have such a wonderfully supportive artistic community helping us carry out our mission by generously donating to our baskets."
At one point, the local Girl Scouts and The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum joined forces to help provide Dragonfly Delights with hand made goodies to go in their baskets. Approximately 18 girls, together with some local artists, created lovely dream catchers, embossed velvet pouches, and shadowboxes for inclusion.
Another offshoot of Dragonfly Delights, and a passion for Alice, is the "Messages of Hope" being created on the website. As she explains this facet of her work, Alice shares "we are asking cancer survivors to give us a few words of encouragement for the newly diagnosed. Our eventual aim is to create special cards that will go into the baskets. We have calligraphers who are making cards with the words "Messages of Hope" penned on the outside. We plan to print the quotes on the inside of these cards. Our BIG dream is to get enough wonderfully inspiring quotes so they can be bound into a blank journal. The journal would also contain dragonfly art. Eventually, we will be inviting artists from all over the USA to donate a piece of dragonfly art for possible inclusion in the book, our final goal being an art show at a gallery where the pieces will be judged for inclusion in the book.
A somewhat new avenue of expression that Alice is exploring is the Life Monologue Project. This organization offers free writing and performance workshops to people living with cancer, HIV and AIDS, thus providing an outlet for their stories. Alice hopes to be perform her dialogue on stage in the near future. "Someone recently told me that I am becoming my art. But what is my art exactly? I've always hated the question, what do you do? In some ways I almost feel like I'm waiting to get a life. At the moment I'm taking guitar lessons and learning percussion on my own. I feel there are many windows opening for me that I want to explore. I'm in the process of creating a gallery here in Santa Fe, which I think will help to bring my art and my passions together in one setting!"
Alice's personal brush with mortality, in true dragonfly fashion, has transformed not just her life, but the lives of all the women touched by her Dragonfly Delights baskets.
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