Ordinary people can do extraordinary things’: Voices of Hope nears $1 million fundraising goal
ANDOVER — 2022 was a big year for Voices of Hope.
The nonprofit musical group, which raises money for local cancer research, performed without masks for the first time in two years. They moved to the Ballard Vale United Church in Andover after 10 years in Lawrence. And now they’re one step closer to reaching their $1 million milestone.
At the organization’s annual meeting on Saturday, founder and President Greg Chastain announced they raised $88,000 for the Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies at Mass General Cancer Center. That brings the total fundraising up to $979,000, and $844,000 specifically to the Termeer Center.
Nurse Director Casandra McIntyre and Director Dr. Dejan Juric also presented updates on the center at the meeting.
After two years of COVID — where Voices of Hope was unable to perform in front of their typical live audiences — Chastain said it was a blessing to return and present the check to the center.
“It was kind of a weird year last year because it was our first year back,” Chastain said. “It was truly amazing that we were able to do that. I didn’t think, when we were doing the numbers, it was going to be that, but it was.”
In 2020 and 2021, Chastain said the nonprofit still managed to raise about $110,000 by getting “creative” with online live shows and filming performances. The unexpected halt put VOH back two years in its fundraising efforts, but to be so close to their goal is “amazing,” Chastain said.
“It’s definitely nothing I had envisioned when we started this, at all… it’s a little overwhelming, I would say,” he said, “because a lot of people have put a lot of work in and stayed with us over the years.”
About 60 members attended the meeting, but Chastain said they’ve had nearly 300 people volunteer with them since he started the group in 2009.
The Termeer Center is a 22-chair outpatient unit that runs clinical, phase 1 trials for Mass General Cancer Center, McIntyre said. Since its founding 11 years ago, the center has brought 22 drugs to U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, which McIntyre said is impressive, given that it usually takes 10 years to get there.
With the support from Voices of Hope, McIntyre said the center has been able to offer transportation to patients up to 30 miles away, making it easier for them to get treatments. McIntyre called the system “a godsend.”
Voices of Hope also funds their “discretionary funds,” which go toward new research, setting up a nursing research scholarship and ensuring patients get the care and attention they need.
McIntyre said the group is “incredibly dedicated” to the cause, having contributed the highest dollar amount to the center besides its founders Belinda and Henry Termeer. For volunteers to garner that kind of funding is even more “remarkable,” she said, and she hopes to continue this partnership as the group reaches that $1 million marker.
“It’s this really nice, mutual support type of thing where I get a huge boost from my interactions with them, and so does the rest of the staff,” McIntyre said.
The past year is full of highlights for the organization, which raised $17,000 through its summer youth program’s production of “Matilda, Jr.,” and more than $12,000 at their annual golf tournament at Dracut’s Four Oaks, Chastain said. Members also sang at the Jordan’s Furniture Enchanted Village, went caroling over the holidays and performed the national anthem for the Boston Celtics, Red Sox, the Woo Sox in Worcester and at UMass Lowell.
Diane Meehan, of Chelmsford, a longtime Voices of Hope member who is part of the marketing team, said having a funding target to reach made their mission more “meaningful.” She and her husband, Kenny, along with two of their three daughters, will be performing in the group’s rendition of “The Music Man,” though she calls the rest of the cast and crew a “very special family.”
For Meehan, nearly attaining the group’s $1 million fundraising goal proves that “ordinary people can do extraordinary things.”
“At the time, it seemed like this crazy dream, it seemed like this very nebulous concept,” Meehan said, “and oh my God, we’re actually going to hit it.”
“The Music Man” runs on April 22 at 8 p.m. and April 23 at 2 p.m. at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly. Meehan, who produced “Matilda, Jr.” last summer, is also excited for this year’s youth program, where they’ll perform the Disney Channel classic “High School Musical.” They’ll also be putting on their first youth cabaret next month, she said.
Hearing the success stories from Termeer Center patients motivates the group to continue to help how they can, Meehan said.
“I feel like it makes us work even harder to support their team and the work that they’re doing,” she said, “because it’s so personal to them.”