28 Dec WCW-Jackelyn Gauci Kastanis
When did you decide you wanted to start Simply From the Heart?
This organization was started by me, because a childhood best friend, Brooke Bolley, passed away at the age of 27 due to complications from esophageal cancer. I witnessed first hand through Brooke’s experiences, the psychological distress common to oncology patients who have received a cancer diagnosis and are undergoing long hospital stays and treatment. In memory of her, I started this mission to enrich the lives of patients in the hospital, by providing beauty services tailored to improving spirit, wellness, and quality of life. SFTH is made up of service professionals and volunteers that call themselves “The Glam Squad.” We provide services free of charge to patients including hairstyling, makeup, nail polish, mini facials, hand massage, and hand massage. We even have a singer from American Idol who volunteers to perform for the patients!
Who has been your biggest mentor and what have you learned from them?
Lately I see myself completely attracted and in awe of anyone with a passionate heart. Those people who either choose to see the good in someone or a situation first, or works extra hard to set a positive system in place; especially from the ground up. Those people are role models. One in particular, who deserves so much credit for helping turn my ideas for SFTH into something systematic and mainstream is my husband, Taki Kastanis. Not only is this man married to a charity case (ha!), he also has devoted so much time and energy to the cause in order for it to reach the level of excellence it deserves. He is such a business man and thankfully this is so, because just like the name “simply from the heart” I am told way too often that I need to be more business minded for the charity to grow.
What would you consider to be your biggest success?
At one point, I was standing in the hospital room next to my friend Brooke, wishing she saw her normal, pretty self when she looked in the mirror. Now, I am able to share the same soothing treatment that helped my friend get through her trying time, with hundreds of other women facing similar challenges. During our first year, we have partnered with major Chicago hospitals such as Rush University, Northwestern Memorial, University Illinois Chicago and University of Chicago, Loyola, and Lurie’s Children’s Hospital. We have gained over 120 volunteers, and we were featured on an NBC segment called “Making A Difference.” However above all these highlights, nothing compares to 700 plus patients we helped pamper and care for. This is success, along with every patient we get to see a better, stronger happier version of themselves.
From the first patient we pampered, SFTHeart was, in our eyes, successful. In September of 2016, we opened our Simply From the Heart Headquarters space in River North, Chicago. Our space is not only our office and headquarters, but used as an outpatient facility for patients undergoiingtreatment to come and get pampering makeovers. Our goals for 2017 include being able to continue to grow donations and volunteers which will allow us to increase programming in our current hospitals and beyond. We hope to be able to build our staff and create a non-profit that extends beyond volunteer positions. The more Simply From The Heart is able to expand in all areas. the more we can commit to our mission and provide happiness to our patients, and therefore the more of a success we will be!
Where would you like to see Simply From the Heart go in the next year?
Our goals for 2017 include being able to continue to grow donations and volunteers which will allow us to increase programming in our current hospitals and beyond. We hope to be able to build our staff and create a non-profit that extends beyond volunteer positions. The more Simply From The Heart is able to expand in all areas. the more we can commit to our mission and provide happiness to our patients.
Why should someone support Simply From the Heart?
With our Glam Squad, we see the impact of Simply From The Heart almost immediately. Our entire mission is based on making our patients feel better. Medically speaking, we do not have the ability to do so, however, when you speak to someone’s soul, their self-esteem can skyrocket! As soon as our Glam Squad walks into a patient’s room, we are greeted with smiles and enthusiasm. Just think how exciting a new visitor can be to a patient, let alone a group of upbeat, fun, and positive volunteers who are super excited to pamper YOU!
And just for fun, what’s the one beauty product you can’t live without?
SFTHeart Chapstick and Chanel highlighter!