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16 year old girl starts Caps for Cancer !!!!


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Teen brings warmth to chemotherapy patients

Michael Woyton

Poughkeepsie Journal

Something as simple as a hat can mean the world to a person undergoing chemotherapy.

"Most of us lose heat through our heads," said Mary Luvera, the administrative director for oncology at Vassar Brothers Medical Center.

"As you undergo chemotherapy, sometimes your blood count gets low, and you feel cold," she said.

That is why the efforts of Julia Cohen are so special to her.

For the past two years, the 16-year-old Town of Poughkeepsie resident has collected about 100 hats and caps of all different kinds.

"A lot of people are knitting the caps," Cohen said. "It's for women, men, kids, too."

The program is called Caps for Cancer. The collection points are the main lobby of Vassar Brothers and the entrance to the Dyson Center for Cancer Care at the hospital in Poughkeepsie, as well as in the Country Thistle on Main Street in Pleasant Valley and at her school, Our Lady of Lourdes.

Cohen said she got the idea of collecting and distributing head gear to cancer patients when an aunt in Massachusetts was undergoing cancer treatment.

"During the chemo process, she didn't realize how fast she would lose her hair," she said.

"She (her aunt) thought it would be a good idea to have hats or caps to wear," Cohen said.

The high school junior picked up the idea and ran with it.

Kathleen Alessi of Plattekill is a recipient of Cohen's initiative.

Alessi is being treated for lung cancer at Vassar Brothers.

"I think it's fantastic that somebody so young is thinking about other people and what they need," she said. "So many kids are so into themselves. It's wonderful."

Sandi Cassese, Vassar's vice president of oncology service, said she was "blown away" by the response to Cohen's cap drive last year.

"I see a longstanding commitment to making a difference in our community," she said.

"It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day of going to school," Cassese said. "This demonstration of commitment is such a mark of character.

"This is what we want to see in the youth of our community," she said.

Luvera said the initiative is quite popular among the hospital's cancer patients.

"I told her she was a remarkable young woman," she said. "To me, she's very impressive."

Cohen, whose father is a surgeon, grew up exposed to what some patients have to go through.

"Everyone has a story, and it's such a simple gesture," she said.

Cohen is expanding her efforts, and would encourage willing businesses to let her put a collection box on their premises.

"Somebody asked me if I could collect journals," she said. "People love to write in them."

Besides keeping the cancer patients warm, the caps make them feel they aren't going through the treatments alone, Cohen said.

"People can reach out and know people care about them," she said.

Additional Facts


Name: Julia Cohen

Age: 16

Residence: Town of Poughkeepsie

Family: Mother, father, two sisters

Hobbies: Soccer, art, writing, running, being with friends and family

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