By Rita L. Sherwood
It all started when Mark Berler had a momentary break from caring for his wife Chelsea, who was suffering from stage IV breast cancer. He was online checking out some paintings by enowned Walton county artist Clint Eagar. When asked why Mark couldn’t pick up the two paintings he purchased, they learned that he was the only caregiver to his dying wife and couldn’t really leave her alone. What quickly ensued was a lasting friendship and fundraisers to carry on Chelsea’s Foye Belle Foundation “Blue Bag Movement.”
Named after Chelsea’s grandmother who also died from breast cancer, the Foye Belle Foundation was conceived during Chelsea’s regular chemo treatments. Each time she would go in for a treatment, Chelsea was saddened by how many people were utterly alone and unsupported, some even arriving by taxi. This hurt her heart to see this again and again, and she felt so fortunate to be loved and supported by her husband, family, and many friends. Each time she came to chemo, she would bring a bag of goodies to keep her occupied during the six-hour stretch, many times giving her items away to those who had nothing. Soon the idea sprouted to make “Blue Bags” for those less fortunate during their chemo treatments, to not only help them pass the time, but also to bring them comfort.
And so started The Foye Belle Foundation, a non-profit, 100% volunteer organization that packs “Blue Bags” and donates them to cancer patients who are actively seeking treatment. 98% of all the money donated goes to packing and shipping these bags. The bags are blue in color because if cancer had a color, Chelsea thought it would be blue.
Before Chelsea passed in 2018, she made her husband Mark promise to keep “The Blue Bag Movement” going, and that’s exactly what he has done. To date, Mark and his band of volunteers have shipped 1,100 “Blue Bags,” to cancer patients in the U.S., Canada, England, Ireland, Wales, Germany, South Africa and Australia, who have been comforted and occupied during their chemo treatments. Chelsea personally selected more than 20 items in each bag, and each has a purpose. They range from ginger tea and candies to ease nausea to a cozy blanket, coloring book, journal, a chemo hat, socks, playing cards, lotion, lip balm, etc. The bags cost about $115 with shipping, and have become a symbol of strength for those going through chemo. Many say their “Blue Bag” has been with them from the beginning, through good times and in bad, and are cherished because they’re always there, especially so when they’re in remission! Bags are available by submitting an online request at foyebelle.org, and are so popular, the website gets a request for a bag every three minutes. When they don’t have enough funds raised to ship out the bags, Mark says he actually has to shut down the request form and post a message that they are fundraising and people should check back, as they don’t say no to anyone.
When asked what his ultimate vision would be for the “Blue Bag Movement,” Mark says, “To never have to shut down the request form.” Donations can be made through the website foyebelle.org, Facebook, PayPal Giving Fund, AmazonSmile, and through T-shirt and book sales, cash donations and event donations. Currently, he’s looking for some medical facilities to donate funds, with his ultimate goal being to acquire 12 of them; that would be a lot of “Blue Bags!” and a whole lot of comforted cancer patients!
Speaking of events, check out Clint Eagar Design, 36 Uptown Grayton Circle, Santa Rosa Beach, June 20th from 4-8 p.m., a portion of purchases will go directly to the “Blue Bag Movement.” Local musician Nick Turner will be playing live, so come on out and support the movement- Chelsea would be so proud!