The University Record, December 17, 2001

Physics, Health Systems employees spread holiday cheer

By NoŽl Rozny

UMHS (Top from left) Lou Ann Woodrum and Susan Blaisdell stuff stockings for cancer patients. From the Department of Physics, left to right, (far left) Milofar Ali, Pat Augustine and Bonnie Clark wrap holiday donations for their sponsor families. Also from Physics (at left) John Vidolich with his Santa hat. (Top photo by Paul Jaronski, others by Bill Wood, U-M Photos Services)
When a coworker was diagnosed with breast cancer, Susan Blaisdell, administrative assistant in the department of Hematology/Oncology, and Lou Anne Woodrum, research secretary, wanted a way to show their friend support and help her celebrate the holidays during her treatment. The result of their efforts eventually became an annual event that brings University employees together to make and distribute holiday stockings to chemotherapy patients at U-M Hospital.

The program involves volunteers from the Hematology/Oncology Department and the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Beginning as early as August, the “HemOnc” elves devote free time to making stockings for distribution to both adult and child patients. “Our goal is to let the patient know we care about them as more than a patient,” says Blaisdell.

Each stocking contains treats which spread holiday cheer and help patients feel more comfortable during treatment. “We put things in the stockings to help them pass the time,” Blaisdell explains. The contents of the stockings come from sponsors such as Colorbock, a Dexter-based distributor that donates stickers and stationery. In past years, children’s stockings have included crayons, yo-yos and finger puppets, while adults have received hot chocolate, playing cards and back scratchers.

The program is designed to include volunteers with a variety of talents and skills. “Even those who don’t sew can have a role,” says Blaisdell.

This year the elves have been able to make and fill 350 stockings, which will be passed out to patients the week of Dec. 17. For more information on the HemOnc elves and their project, visit the Web at

Hematology/Oncology isn’t the only department volunteering to help those in need during the holiday season. For the past nine years, the Department of Physics has participated in the Washtenaw County Family Independence Agency’s community giving program. The department volunteers collect donations that go to low-income families in Washtenaw County.