Keep on the sunny side: Green Side Up Foundation brightens children’s cancer center

SHARING STORIES: Local nonprofit Green Side Up launches its "Speaker Series" this Sunday, Nov. 15, bringing real-life stories from Mission's Childrens' Cancer Center to the community. Image courtesy of Green Side Up Foundation.

A diagnosis of cancer is a terrifying prospect for anyone. The long, arduous process of treatment and recovery not only physically drains a patient, but also takes an immense emotional toll. For children who’ve just begun their life’s journey, the experience can be especially difficult.

In an effort to show compassion for young people battling cancer and lift patients’ spirits, local nonprofit organization Green Side Up has teamed up with Mission Hospital’s Zeis Children’s Cancer Center to ease the uphill fight many youths face in combating the disease. Through donation drives, hospital visits and assistance to families, Green Side Up is working to inspire hope in the lives of those affected by cancer.

To expand their efforts to raise funds for cancer treatment and research, the nonprofit will be hosting the inaugural meeting of its “Speaker Series” fundraiser drive on Sunday, November 15 at Avenue M in North Asheville. Melanie Clark, Hematology & Oncology Nurse Unit Supervisor for Mission Children’s Hospital, will be on hand to share stories about her patients’ experiences and needs.

Paying it forward

Green Side Up was founded in 2013 by Taryn Hoffman, who serves as Executive Director, and her sons Damien and Derek Hoffman to assist Mission Hospital in providing a comfortable environment for children going through chemotherapy and cancer treatment. Hoffman says the inspiration for Green Side Up came out of her family’s personal experience with losing a loved one to the disease.

“My father passed away three years ago after a multi-year battle with cancer. Our experience as a family inspired us to do what we can to help reduce the suffering of others who are experiencing the horrors of cancer.” She adds that Green Side Up decided to focus on children battling cancer and their families because “unlike my father, they have not yet lived a long life, so we want to especially bring joy to them.”

Despite his failing health, Hoffman says her father never let the disease dampen his spirit, focusing instead on the good things in his life. The organization takes its name from his late-life motto “Green side up!”

Green Side Up works closely with the Mission Healthcare Foundation to help raise money for the hospital’s work and to build stronger ties with community donors. “Green Side Up gives Mission Foundation a dedicated team who are solely focused on raising money for cancer,” says Hoffman. “Our goal is to connect ALL these donors and volunteers with cancer related needs at Mission – something Mission Foundation cannot do without our help.”

The money they help to raise goes towards supporting patients and families with such simple things as snacks and food; transportation to and from the hospital; books, games and iPads for patients while they are going through chemotherapy; and bringing in support services such as arts and crafts teachers, music therapists and therapy dogs to help patients cope with their ordeal.

“Green Side Up has been extremely gracious and generous in wanting to help the children served at Mission in our cancer program,” says Leigh Ruhl, Senior Major Gift Officer for Women and Children Services at Mission. “Their idea and goal to make a child’s day brighter and happier is a lovely testament to them wanting to give back to others that are struggling.”

Ruhl notes that many of their patients travel two or more hours to reach Mission, the only provider of pediatric cancer services in the region. In addition, approximately 70 percent of the patients they see are either on Medicaid or are underinsured, according to Ruhl.

“We don’t get fully reimbursed for the services that we provide, so we run at a deficit each year,” she reports. “Green Side Up allows us to provide supportive services,” including a team of nutritionists, social workers and child-life specialists that assist families with setting up home care, transportation and food needs.

“[Green Side Up is] very hands on and collaborative in thinking of different ways and working with different groups in our region to build awareness of our programs,” says Ruhl.

Putting a face to a name

To further facilitate a connection between health care officials, cancer patients and the larger community, Green Side Up will begin hosting their monthly Speaker Series this weekend at Avenue M. The event is geared not only towards fundraising, but also “bring[ing] real-life stories to our community to inspire and show people how they can help fight cancer in Western Carolina” through presentations by former patients, family members and Mission staff, according to Hoffman.

SPIRITS UP: Taryn Hoffman, Executive Director of Green Side Up, says her father's positive attitude during his battle with cancer inspired her family to help lift the spirits of children going through cancer treatment at Mission Hospital. Her organization assists in raising funds for supportive services while patients are in treatment. Photo courtesy of Green Side Up Foundation.
SPIRITS UP: Taryn Hoffman, Executive Director of Green Side Up, says her father’s positive attitude during his battle with cancer inspired her family to help lift the spirits of children going through cancer treatment at Mission Hospital. Her organization assists in raising funds for supportive services while patients are in treatment. Photo courtesy of Green Side Up Foundation.

“We believe that the natural compassion across Western Carolina will manifest in donations and volunteering as soon as people can directly learn what our children and families need from the community,” she notes. “We want to take the fight against cancer from a theoretical idea happening to people ‘out there’ to a tangible experience where people deeply understand it’s happening to their neighbors.”

In addition to Clark’s lecture, the Sunday meeting will feature refreshments and food donated by Avenue M and a raffle drawing for  prizes donated by local businesses such as Pure Barre, LP Boutique, Turner and Scott, The Local Barber and Tap, Spa at Biltmore Village and Avenue M. “The community support has been amazing!” reports Hoffman, who has connected with several businesses and venues about donations for this event and future ones. The proceeds from each raffle go towards purchasing items on the Mission Wish List (see below) and organizing future events. “I have not heard a single ‘no thank you’ yet!” from the community, Hoffman says.

Green Side Up is also currently in the preliminary stages of organizing a children’s festival in the near future, says Hoffman, as well as a gala-type event for December 2016.

“Our only job is to help connect their resources and/or time directly to immediate needs that will positively impact and bring joy to real children and families overwhelmed by the struggles of cancer,” says Hoffman of her Foundation’s long-term goals. “When someone thinks ‘How can I help these children and families?’ they will know the perfect action step is contact Green Side Up.”

The Green Side Up Foundation “Speaker Series kicks off on Sunday, Nov. 15 from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. at Avenue M at 791 Merrimon Avenue in North Asheville. For more information on the event, visit or


Make a wish come true

Cancer treatment can be an extremely uncomfortable, expensive experience for patients and their family. The Mission Healthcare Foundation has provided a wish list of patients’ various needs, which is listed below. For more information on how you can help provide children with these items in their time of need, visit

Mission Foundation Wish List for Children’s Cancer Center

  • $5 Bean Shop Gift Card
    Bean Shops are located at the Cancer Center and Mission Hospital. Bean Shops sell drinks, snacks, and lunch items for anyone to purchase.
  • $5 – Child Friendly Band Aides
    Child friendly band aides have fun, familiar, children’s characters on them. Mission Hospital only provides plain brown band aides, which are not child friendly.
  • $10 – Hi, My Name is Jack (A Book for the Healthy Siblings of Chronically Ill Children) by Beall-Sullivan
    This book is provided to families when a child is diagnosed with cancer, sickle cell, or other serious illness, when the child has a sibling(s). This book is a tool for parents/caregivers to help siblings identify and cope with the emotions they experience when their brother/sister has a serious illness. *Discounts are offered for bulk orders.
  • $10 Mission Hospital Cafeteria
    Hospital cafeteria food can be expensive. Patients are provided a meal tray. Parents/caregivers are responsible for their own meals.
  • $15 – Acupressure Wrist Bands
    Acupressure Wrist Bands provides relief of nausea. Acupressure is an ancient healing art that uses pressure to stimulate the body’s natural self-curative abilities.
  • $15 – Water Bugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children by Stickney
    A book given to families with young children to help them explain death to their children.
  • $15 – Chemo, Craziness, and Comfort: My Book About Childhood Cancer by Keene and Romain
    This book is provided to 6-12 year old children diagnosed with cancer. It provides practical advice for coping. Warm and funny illustrations and easy-to-read text help the child (and parents) make sense of cancer and its treatment.
  • $20 Tear Soup: A Receipe for Healing After Loss
    A book given to families to help them explain death to their children.
  • $20 – Teen/Adolescent friendly DVDs
    Teen/adolescent friendly DVDS are used in the outpatient clinic and hospital settings. DVDs provide distractions and entertainment during long outpatient appointments and during hospital admissions.
  • $20 – Living with Childhood Cancer: A Practical Guide to Help Families Cope by Woznick and Goodheart
    This book is provided to families when a child is diagnosed with a solid tumor cancer for psychosocial education and to help foster adjustment and coping.
  • $25 – Educating the Child with Cancer: A Guide for Parents and Teachers (2nd edition) by Hoffman
    This book is provided to families when a school-aged child is diagnosed with cancer.
  • $25 – Medical/Doctor Play Set
    Medical/Doctor Play sets are provided to families to encourage medical play which promotes adjustment and coping in a medical setting.
  • $25 – 5 Plastic Containers (with lids and handle)
    Plastic Containers are given to families when a child is diagnosed with cancer to organize multiple medication bottles together in one location.
  • $25 – Healing Images for Children: Teaching Relaxation and Guided Imagery to Children Facing Cancer and Other Serious Illness by Klein
    This book is provided to families when a child is diagnosed with cancer to help foster adjustment and coping.
  • $30 – Childhood Brain & Spinal Cord Tumors: A Guide for Families, Friends & Caregivers by Maher, Cullen and Sansalone
    This book is provided to families when a child is diagnosed with a brain tumor for psychosocial education and to help foster adjustment and coping.
  • $30 – Chemo Duck
    A developmental teaching tool that provides comfort and understanding of chemotherapy treatments to children wit h a child friendly stuffed animal who receives medication through a central line.
  • $60 – Handsfree Paper Towel Dispenser
    For patient/family areas
  • $100 Large Brass Wall Mount Hanging Bell
    Bells are frequently used in pediatric hematology/oncology settings to mark a transition or accomplishment. Children are offered the opportunity to ring the bell to signify completion of treatment or transitioning to adulthood.
  • $250 – Xbox 360
    Video game system that provides distractions and entertainment for patients during long outpatient appointments.
  • $500 – Butterfly Cart items
    A Butterfly Cart contains items that transform a child’s hospital room to a comfortable, private bedroom setting for a dying child whose family has opted for the child to pass in the hospital instead of their home.
  • $1,000 – Teaching Puppet (Teaching Puppet [$700] plus pediatric oncology teaching accessories [$300])
    A Teaching Puppet is used to educate children about their diagnosis and treatment through a safe, child-friendly method.
  • $1,000 – Snoezelen FiberOptic Light Cable
    A Snoezelen FiberOptic Light Cable provides a calming, sensory experience for children experiencing stress and anxiety.
  • $20,000 – Snoezelen GroundFX Projector
    A Snoezelen GroundFX Projector is an interactive projector system which provides child friendly distraction and fun in a medical setting.

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About Max Hunt
Max Hunt grew up in South (New) Jersey and graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2011. History nerd; art geek; connoisseur of swimming holes, hot peppers, and plaid clothing. Follow me @J_MaxHunt

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