"My mother had no idea what today was about other than Hearts of Hope was coming to pass out hearts."
Olga Taborda has not only been volunteering at Norwalk Hospital for 13 years, but is also a 23-year breast cancer survivor. On Friday, she was surprised by friends, family and co-workers to be honored with a gift from the Hearts of Hope Foundation at the Whittingham Cancer Center at Norwalk Hospital.
"Olga is our volunteer here and she came and greeted my parents, calmed them down, offered them coffee and allowed me to get my chemo, while she was able to acclimate us understand that we're not alone," said Zarek Mena, Whittingham Caner Center patient advocator and cancer survivor.
"I had chemo, radiation, I was taking medication," said Norwalk Hospital volunteer Olga Taborda. "I was thinking it is very nice to try to help the people who have the same problem."
It all started when Norwalk Police School resource officer Phil Taborda received a special gift from a third grader in New Jersey; a hand-painted heart-shaped souvenir from the Hearts of Hope Foundation.
"Although I was involved with hearts of hope through this young lady in New Jersey," said Taborda. "I wanted today to be about my mother because of what she does on a daily basis when she comes to the hospital. I was about 12 years old when she was diagnosed, and she fought it and she beat it."
The foundation's motto is to pay it forward by creating hope one heart at a time. It gives back to individuals like cancer survivors, marines and others who have been through traumatic events, with decorated clay hearts. So far the foundation has delivered almost 50,000 Hearts of Hope.
"A lot of times we deliver these small gifts of hope to people who feel there is no hope," said Hearts of Hope Founder and executive director Judy Pedersen. "So we approach people in these locations purely because we want to say we care, somebody out there is thinking about you."
"She pretty much says that anybody who comes in here with a positive attitude, most of the time, almost all the time, they are the ones that come out on top over this nasty disease."
For more details visit www.ourheartsofhope.org