Draper Women Making a Difference
Draper resident Lisa Bigelow was a remarkable woman. She was a committed wife, a fiercely loyal friend, an adoring grandma and a loving mom to seven children. Many described Bigelow as a vibrant, beautiful woman whose smile lit up the room and whose influence and service were immeasurable.
Bigelow passed away at the age of 53 on March 3, 2015, after a year-long battle with ovarian cancer. Her friends and family struggled to know how to fill the void.
“We felt an urgency to do something and pay tribute to our amazing friend. We loved her and wanted to honor her life long after the funeral was over,” says Draper resident Tami Tappan, Bigelow’s best friend and neighbor.
Bigelow’s greatest joy was being a mom, so Tappan, along with Bigelow’s daughter, stepdaughter, four daughters in law and sisters, mom and other close friends, explored the idea of hosting a yearly Mother’s Day Brunch to raise money to create chemotherapy comfort bags to be delivered to patients throughout the valley. Someone had delivered such a bag to Bigelow when she began treatment. It was filled with comforting necessities including a blanket, a water bottle, fuzzy socks, lotion, candies and a hand-written note to give her courage to face the pains of chemotherapy.
Raising money to make “Lisa’s Angel Bags,” seemed like a perfect way to honor their mom and friend. However, within just a few days of Bigelow’s passing, Tappan stumbled on a story about a cancer-stricken Ohio woman facing a surprisingly difficult challenge. This stranger’s story changed everything.
Michelle Hammond of Cincinnati, Ohio, a mother of three, was diagnosed with advanced stage ovarian cancer. She and her husband determined that her best treatment option was in Chicago, Illinois. The night before her chemotherapy treatments began, her husband checked her into the hospital with the plan to meet her the following day to start her treatments. The next morning, however, he failed to show up and did not answer his cell phone. Michelle eventually contacted the hotel staff and was given the devastating news that her husband had suffered a massive heart attack and had passed away the night before in his room.
Stunned and heartbroken beyond belief, Michelle postponed her cancer treatments, left the hospital alone and returned home as a single mom to begin funeral arrangements for her husband.
“The moment I read this story, I knew that we needed to expand our focus to support a single mom battling cancer,” says Tappan. “Years earlier, Lisa had also been a single mom, so this is exactly what she would have wanted.”
The team of Bigelow’s friends and family established a non-profit called The Forget Me Not Angels Foundation, with the goal to help a single mom with cancer or a single mother struggling to support a child with cancer. The foundation’s mission statement declares, “In honor of mothers we have lost to cancer, we give hope and courage to mothers who are still battling.”
Many outsiders cautioned that the process of establishing such a foundation could take up to a year, but these determined women looked past the naysayers and anxiously engaged themselves in preparing for their first fundraising event.
Just weeks after Bigelow’s passing, the inaugural brunch took place on May 9 this year on a rainy Saturday–the day before Mother’s Day.
The hallways were lined with gift baskets filled with thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and services, donated for a silent auction. Items included VIP Real Salt Lake soccer tickets, box seats for the Salt Lake Bees, signed sports apparel and collectibles, sessions from Draper photographers, haircuts and spa services from local salons and even a weeklong time-share in Southern California.
The group’s initial goal was to sell 75 tickets to the event, but as the doors opened, these women stood humbly with tears in their eyes as they watched hundreds of people standing in the rain to buy a ticket to support their cause to honor their friend’s life. That day, $9,500 was raised.
Kim Tycksen, Bigelow’s sister, says she is thrilled to know of the awareness their efforts will create. “No one plans to get cancer. We certainly didn’t. And you don’t know until you are thrust into it that you realize the desperate need to be embraced by a community. That is what we are trying to do here.”
The Forget Me Not Angels Foundation plans to deliver every year on Bigelow’s birthday “Lisa’s Angel Bags” to as many patients as their funds will allow, and the annual Mother’s Day Brunch will gift the proceeds to a single mom experiencing unique challenges as she battles cancer.
Can one person change the world? These Draper women are certainly showing that it is possible.