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Basket of Hope

Caring for spiritual needs of families of children with cancer

During the year after Thrivent member Angela Brunette's 6-year-old daughter was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor, Brunette often found herself awake in the middle of the night.

"There was no greater comfort than the hours when the house was quiet, at 2 a.m. or so, and I was awake and alone with my Bible, my journal and God," Brunette recalled. "God seemed to speak straight from the Scriptures to my heart, offering me hope; assurance of His presence and plan for our lives; and giving me the strength to rise the next day and do it all over again."

So when her daughter's weekly radiation and chemotherapy treatments were nearing their end, Brunette thought about passing that comfort and assurance on to other families whose journeys with cancer were just beginning. "I believe God put it in our hearts to reach out and share His love with them at this most difficult time," Brunette said. She placed a Bible, journal, and some toys and games into a basket and, with the nurses' blessing, brought it to a family she'd seen check in to the hospital. "When you walk in, you see them light up," Brunette said. "You're motivated to do it again."

She spoke with several groups that gave toys to families of children with cancer, but none either addressed spiritual issues of families or wanted to in their work. That was a missing piece to Brunette. "I found that when visiting families of children with cancer and asking them how we could help, prayer was number one on their list," she says. "To ignore this need and minimize the need to seek God was a disservice to the families. I found the only choice was to start our own nonprofit and bring on our own board members who felt the same way about our mission and vision as we did."

She founded the group Basket of Hope (Link opens in new window) in 1995, initially preparing about 600 baskets each year in her basement. By 1997, Brunette was running out of room in her basement for the ever-growing demand for baskets. She decided to form a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. That way, donors would receive a tax deduction and she could apply for grants from foundations and corporations and expand the group's work. Through classes in nonprofit management at the University of Missouri, she found an advisor who helped her create a national expansion plan.

Today, Basket of Hope serves 1,000 families in St. Louis annually and works with branches in 12 states. As the organization has changed, so has the basket's delivery and contents. Kids receive a Basket of Hope with toys, games, crafts, movies and music, while their parents receive a Hope Tote, which includes inspirational materials. Local and national celebrities have joined the cause, including former St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner and his wife, Brenda, and former Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy, who connected Basket of Hope with the National Football League.

Basket of Hope was even selected as a featured charity for Super Bowl 2012. In partnership with Thrivent Financial offices and chapters, the NFL and Thrivent members worked to pack and deliver 7,000 Basket of Hope gift baskets to families in all 32 NFL cities. Parents received their own Hope Totes, with 7,000 bags donated by handbag designer Vera Bradley. UPS shipped everything across the country for free.

It sounds like an amazing accomplishment, but Brunette says it's all up to God. "If it's His plan, He's going to make it grow."

And Brunette's daughter who had the inoperable tumor? Now she's 24, healthy, and married with a baby of her own.

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