Team Yarn honors Isanti resident Cheryl Slater

An organization that began in honor of the passing of an Isanti mother due to cancer is making a difference in the local community.

Cheryl Slater was a lifelong Isanti County resident. During the 11 months she battled a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer, she appreciated the assistance she received from the Harbor Room at the Cambridge Medical Center.

Cheryl Slater was a lifelong Isanti County resident. During the 11 months she battled a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer, she appreciated the assistance she received from the Harbor Room at the Cambridge Medical Center.

On Monday, Jan. 28, Team Yarn donated several hats, scarves, shawls and afghans to the Harbor Room Cancer Resource Center, located inside Cambridge Medical Center.

Organizers Amy (Slater) Pass and Tesha M. (Christensen) Pettit explained Team Yarn’s mission is to provide the comfort of hats, scarves, shawls and afghans to people who are fighting cancer.

Pass, a 1996 Chadashchay Christian School graduate who currently resides in south Minneapolis, lost her mother, Cheryl Slater, to cancer on Oct. 20, 2012. Cheryl received a diagnosis of Merkel Cell Carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer, in November 2011. Over the next 11 months, she fought a heroic battle with grace and strength.

Cheryl’s husband, Brad Slater, works as a carpenter and continues to live in Isanti. He is also involved in missions in Mexico and Utah part-time.

The Harbor Room Cancer Resource Center is available to anyone affected by cancer where patients and family can find the support they need both during and after treatment.

Online and printed resources provide the latest information on cancer prevention and screening. Many support groups and interesting classes are offered, including art and yoga. Wigs, hats and prosthetics are also available, and an understanding staff and compassionate team of volunteers are on hand to listen or talk. Most of the services the Harbor Room provides are offered free of charge.

On Monday, Jan. 28, Team Yarn donated several crocheted hats, scarves, shawls and more to the Harbor Room Cancer Resource Center located inside Cambridge Medical Center. Pictured in back are Amy (Slater) Pass and Bonnie Gutzkow-Bowman, coordinator of the Harbor Room. In front are Tesha M. (Christensen) Pettit and Amy’s daughter Aurora and Tesha’s son Axel. Photo by Rachel Kytonen

On Monday, Jan. 28, Team Yarn donated several crocheted hats, scarves, shawls and more to the Harbor Room Cancer Resource Center located inside Cambridge Medical Center. Pictured in back are Amy (Slater) Pass and Bonnie Gutzkow-Bowman, coordinator of the Harbor Room. In front are Tesha M. (Christensen) Pettit and Amy’s daughter Aurora and Tesha’s son Axel. Photo by Rachel Kytonen

“My mom was diagnosed with Merkel Cell Carcinoma in 2011, and she began chemotherapy in the winter of 2012,” Pass  said. “We quickly learned that a head without hair grows cold very fast. I began crocheting chemo caps for her right away, as did my sister-in-law, and my mom was also blessed to receive handmade gifts from the cancer support center in her hospital. Each gift was loved and appreciated. It’s amazing how meaningful such a simple gift can be.”

Team Yarn is a satellite group of Head Huggers, a national organization. They have extended their mission beyond hats, and they invite the community to also donate scarves, shawls and afghans. All items will be distributed to hospitals and local organizations to support cancer patients here in Minnesota.

Pass said she wants to give back to the Harbor Room since it helped her mother when she was going through cancer.

“My mom received a number of items from the Harbor Room when she was first diagnosed with cancer, and I wanted them to be the recipients of our first Team Yarn donations,” Pass said. “It’s really because of the Harbor Room and the items my mom received from there that I even thought of doing something like Team Yarn. I watched the growth of the short stay/chemotherapy unit at Cambridge Medical Center firsthand over the course of the year that my mom was treated there, and I know that Cambridge Medical Center is treating a growing number of cancer patients. Though this is sadly unfortunate, it means that our help is all the more needed.”

Pettit is a 1996 graduate of Cambridge-Isanti High School and currently lives in south Minneapolis. However, her parents, Rande and Vickie Christensen remain in the Cambridge community.

The Slater family. Front row, left to right, Cheryl and Brad Slater. Middle: Aurora Pass. Top, left to right: Gabriel Pass, Amy Pass, Francisca Pass and Ulises Contreras.

The Slater family. Front row, left to right, Cheryl and Brad Slater. Middle: Aurora Pass. Top, left to right: Gabriel Pass, Amy Pass, Francisca Pass and Ulises Contreras.

“The Harbor Room and its volunteers have been quietly comforting the sick in our community for years,” Pettit said. “They do it in small ways—which are really big ways. That’s what our Team Yarn mission is, as well. We want to bring comfort during trying times.

“I am inspired to be a part of this because of Cheryl Slater, a woman I knew for most of my life. She was beautiful, strong, and courageous. She is a person who is sorely missed.  Nothing will bring her back, but helping others provides a path through our loss,” Pettit added.

Team Yarn has about 20 members, including people from California, North Carolina, New York and Canada. Pass and Pettit explained most of them have roots in the Isanti County area, either living there now or having grown up there. Others are Cheryl Slater’s relatives, who are honored to do something in memory of her. In Team Yarn’s first month, over 40 finished items were donated.

“We’d love to see more people join the team,” said Pass. “We can use all the help we can get.”

Items should be handmade, new, washable, free of smoke and pet hair. Team Yarn has an informal monthly meeting where you can drop off your projects or stay and craft with them. The meetings are held the third Sunday of each month from noon to 3 p.m. at Silverwood Cafe at Silverwood Park in St. Anthony.

About Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Team Yarn is passionate about spreading awareness and helping those with cancer catch it early. In particular, they want to increase awareness of the rare and aggressive form of skin cancer that Pass’ mom, Cheryl, battled. Since MCC is an uncommon malignancy, few patients are familiar with the disease and few doctors are familiar with its treatment.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC) is a skin cancer, but while most skin cancers are nothing to fear, MCC is one with a high mortality rate. Roughly one-third of those diagnosed with MCC die. There are roughly 1500 cases diagnosed per year in the United States, making it about 40 times less common than melanoma.

MCC is associated with immunosuppression, UV exposure, age over 50 and a newly discovered polyomavirus that is common on the normal-appearing skin of most people. The cause of MCC has not yet been firmly established, and therapeutic interventions at late stage disease are frustratingly ineffective. Researchers are investigating immune evasion strategies employed by MCC, and how to overcome them using immunotherapy approaches—which as the potential to help anyone with cancer.

For more information

For more information email Amy Pass at amyinthewind@gmail.com. You can also mail your projects to: Team Yarn, c/o Amy Pass, 2536 18th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55404.

You can also browse http://teamyarn.blogspot.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/TeamYarnHeadHuggers.

For more information on the Harbor Room call 763-688-8415.

up arrow