Bracelet foundation benefits childhood cancer patients


Carrie Lambert, left, and Ruth Powers join the Healing Hands ministry at St. Mary Basilica to make bracelets to raise money for Berkeley Mardis, a teenage cancer patient. Organizers hope the foundation they have formed to sell the bracelets will expand to support children with cancer world-wide.

By Maureen Smith
NATCHEZ – A simple act of kindness has taken on a life of its own with the founding of Berkeley’s Bracelets. Berkeley is a 15-year-old New Orleans girl who has cancer. Carrie Lambert, a friend of her grandmother and member of St. Mary’s Basilica, made her a hat and a shawl to wear while she was in the hospital for treatments.
“She sent me a thank-you note and in it she talked about how blessed she was. It really touched me” said Lambert. As Lent was approaching, Lambert was trying to think of what her sacrifice would be. She prayed about it and woke up before dawn with the idea to start Berkeley’s Bracelets.
Lambert taught members of the Healing Hands ministry at the basilica how to make the bracelets and the group began selling them as a way to help cover the cost of Berkeley’s treatments. Organizers then got the idea to encourage kids with cancer to share the bracelets with one another. The group explained the concept in their mission statement. “There are different colors assigned by the American Cancer Society to represent the different forms of cancer.  Berkeley’s type of cancer has been designated as yellow. The foundation hopes to offer bracelets, their patterns, and packets so others can start up a foundation like this for their child,” reads part of the statement.
The foundation also hopes the patients feel a sense of being connected with others facing similar challenges. “I think that the most important thing for Berkeley’s Bracelets is to bring happiness to the others fighting their own pe071114bracelets02rsonal fight,” said Berkeley Mardis in an email from the hospital. “The bracelet is a constant reminder that we are not alone in the fight and that there is always someone caring about us and praying for us. And I really think the teens and preteens who receive these bracelets will like them,” she added.
The bracelets are made using a technique called Tunisian or Afghan crochet, which combines elements of crochet and knitting. Each one has a charm on it, sometimes a “B” for Berkeley, sometimes a cross or a dove.
Mardis’ grandmother, Regina, is the secretary at St. Mary’s. She said the teen has been strong throughout her ordeal. “She has never cried, she is smiling all the time. We just can’t believe her spirits,” said the elder Mardis. She explained that Berkeley, a high school softball player, found a knot on her leg, but dismissed it as an injury from her sport. When it would not go away she went to her doctor and got the surprising diagnosis.
Her cancer, osteosarcoma, stayed on the outside of her bone. In late spring, doctors removed a section of bone and muscle from her leg and then, in a second surgery, removed a benign spot from her lungs. “Right now she is cancer free, but she still has to go through chemo until October,” said Mardis.
The teen hopes to rejoin the softball team when she is done with treatments. Her family has incurred more than half a million dollars in costs so far, even with insurance. “I hope that Berkeley’s Bracelets will continue to bring joy for many days and years to come. I am very thankful for all that the program has done to help with our huge medical expenses, but more importantly I want to see it raise awareness, not only for osteosarcoma, but for childhood cancers in general. I am one blessed girl to have so many people who love me and my family,” said the teen.


The foundation hopes to send bracelets to children with cancer. Each one will come in a little bag with a note about the project.

The foundation is asking permission to hand out the bracelets in children’s hospitals to spread the idea. Each would come in a mesh bag with a letter from the organizers and information on how to purchase more bracelets or a pattern to make one. “I would like to be able to deliver some of the bracelets myself to the kids because it would give me the opportunity to meet some new people who may be going through something similar to me.  But my resistance is low due to the chemo I am taking, so I cannot visit any of my peers who are sick,” said Berkeley.
The group has set up a facebook page where order information is posted. The bracelets cost $6-7 and the pattern is $10.