Donating Candles For Cheer Box Comfort: Katie Gonzalez

Katie Gonzalez and her husband were invited to EveryStep's signature fundraising event, the Art of Compassion, in October 2019. It was there she realized that she already had a connection to EveryStep.  

"At the time I did not know it [the event] was put on by EveryStep," she said. "My grandma had passed away in February of 2019 after battling cancer and she had become an EveryStep patient for a short time before she passed." 

Katie recalls how thankful her grandfather and the rest of her family were for the care her grandmother received as a patient. 

Sitting at the gala, Katie learned more about the organization and its family of programs, including EveryStep Grief & Loss Services' Amanda the Panda program. 

Supporters and staff members of the program talked about the grief services provided by the organization and explained the importance of its Cheer Box program. 

"I nominated my dad and grandpa for a Cheer Box after learning about the cause at the gala and hearing how it impacted the speaker after her husband passed," she said.  

Amanda the Panda program's Cheer Box initiative aims to bring cheer and support to families who have lost a loved one. This year, that mission is even more important as our traditional way of grieving and honoring our lost loved ones has been changed.  

"It brought me joy to know that my grandpa and dad received a box," she said. "A volunteer drove all the way to southern Iowa to hand deliver it. My family was very thankful for each item they received." 

 It was that same joy that Katie wanted to ensure others felt this holiday season. 

 At the time, Katie had recently begun studying candle making, with the aim of opening a small business.  

In May 2020, she did just that, launching Elias and Jane - named for her and her son's middle names.  

"When I began candle making I had the full intention of donating some to Amanda the Panda for their Cheer Boxes," she said. 

 "I love the meaning behind Amanda the Panda and the Cheer Boxes," she said. "How the Cheer Boxes impacted and helped my family, I wanted to be able to help others as well."  

Katie decided that she would donate a candle for each one purchased through her special "Purchase with Purpose Line," which is dedicated to her grandmother. 

 "Candles are something that I love, and each fragrance in my Purchase with Purpose line is in memory of my grandma and remind me of her in several ways," she said. "The names 'Be Thankful, Be Humble, & Be Kind' are things she taught me by her words and actions." 

 So, it was fitting that the candles that remind her so much of her grandmother could bring comfort to others grieving the loss of a loved one. 

 Katie set a goal of donating 50 candles to Amanda the Panda this fall. Recently, she dropped off 54 candles to be included in the 550 Cheer Boxes set to be delivered this holiday season. 

She hopes to donate just as many candles next year. 

While Cheer Box deliveries are already underway for 2020, gifts and monetary donations are accepted throughout the year. Visit our Amanda the Panda page for more information on the program and to donate or volunteer.