Cancer Messed with the Wrong Woman

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Elvira Protano’s Gift for Hope Foundation - helping people fighting breast cancer.

Cancer Messed with the Wrong Woman

Since her breast cancer diagnosis several years ago, Elvira Protano of Woonsocket has waged a fierce one-woman battle against the disease. Instead of feeling sorry for herself and thinking there was nothing that she could do to make a difference, Protano not only beat back cancer, but started a non-profit group devoted to aiding anyone else dealing with this disease.

Five years ago, she began “Elvira’s Gift for Hope Foundation” not only as a coping mechanism for herself, but to show others that someone is fighting for them also. Her mission differs from other in that the money she raises does not go toward research. She puts her money into paying off bills and other necessities for these impacted families.

Protano knows first-hand the hardships that happen when doctors inform patients of a cancer diagnosis.

“It’s not just the person who is affected by the cancer; the entire family is as well,” said Protano, herself a Stage 2 Breast Cancer survivor. She underwent a double mastectomy, several months of chemo and reconstructive surgery before doctors told her she is in remission. “When someone in the family has this, their spouse of other family member may also have to time off from work to take them to their appointments or pick up their medications. When both spouses are not working, that creates a situation where people fall behind on their payments and other problems happen as a result.”

Protano said she was fortunate in that she worked at home as a CPA/Accountant when she learned of the news. Had she commuted to work, then she might have had to quit her job because she would have missed time at work. Most people are not as lucky in that regard—their jobs might not be there when they get back from treatments.

Elvira’s Gift for Hope Foundation recently received its 501 (c) (3) non-profit designation, which Protano said took a year to complete. She said how thrilled she is getting this distinction because it shows companies and individuals that her cause as “legit” when she requests help.

Protano has used the money she generated to buy groceries, clothes and toys during the holidays; made car, rent, utility and/or mortgage payments—often for people where were close to losing their possessions—and other expenses to keep the focus on the people she helps get better.

The Foundation has given dozens of area families throughout Blackstone Valley the assistance they needed—often without fanfare or hype. She wants to help out in her own way—because she knows what these families are going through—but said she does not need the spotlight to feel like she makes a difference.

“There is a need for people to get help, but they are too proud to ask,” she said. “It can be tough to ask for assistance, but I am here to help, and every donation I receive, and give is strictly confidential. They do not need to meet with me, although they can if they want. Over the past few years, I have been able to provide gifts for families during the holidays keep people in their homes when they were just days from being evicted and keep the lights on when their electric bill became too expensive.”

Protano recently held a Music Bingo Night at Escada Restaurant & Bar in Johnston to help raise awareness and funds for the Fifth annual Foundation Fundraiser to be held at The Coachman in Bellingham, Mass on Friday, September 6. Funds collected that night will help the Foundation’s mission and will work toward helping people in need during the fall and winter months.

Past raffle items included trips to Foxwoods, Block Island and Great Wolf Lodge; autographed jerseys by recently-retired New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski, an autographed football signed by New England Patriots Wide Receiver (and recent Super Bowl LIII Most Valuable Player) Julian Edelman, Providence Bruins tickets, Providence College gift packages and restaurant gift cards. Protano hopes to have bigger and better prizes on hand for this event.

Tickets for the September 6 begin at $40 for individuals, $75 for couples and $350 for a table of 10. Protano said her goal is to raise $15,000 at their September event to help people during the holiday season, which is a critical time of need.

“My hope is making people feel a little better about themselves and giving them a smile during their time of stress,” she concluded. “Breast Cancer had no idea who they would be dealing with when I got diagnosed. It’s messing with the wrong woman!”

More details about the event and contributing to the Elvira’s Gift For Hope Foundation can be obtained by contacting Elvira Protano at (401) 787-5638 or by email at: elvirasgiftforhope.15@gmail.com. Tickets may also be purchased at the Foundation’s website at www.elvirasgiftforhope.org.