When I first walked into weSpark, the non-profit cancer support organization in Sherman Oaks, I noticed the colorful welcoming flowerbeds. Once inside I was struck by the bright, homey feel of the place. Could this really be a place for cancer patients?
But in fact, weSpark helps cancer patients, their friends and families deal with a disease that goes far beyond medicine. Children, parents, spouses, co-workers and friends are affected. weSpark has a way to help them all at no charge. And the staff is warm, helpful and understanding.
Their offices on Ventura Boulevard are a bit of a maze, but each room had comfortable, cushy furniture that you could settle into for a long time. There are yoga classes, reiki energy sessions, hypnotherapy, reflexology, cooking, jewelry making, tai chi, writing classes, cooking classes for kids, and support groups for women, men, children, caregivers and patients at all stages of cancer. They also have a computer, a small library and little hat and wig boutique.
weSpark has ties to Hollywood. Its founder, Wendie Jo Sperber, was an actress and comedian and a good friend of Tom Hanks. She passed away from cancer in 2005 but not before founding weSpark. The current Executive Director is Nancy Allen who you may recognize from the films Carrie, Robocop or Dressed to Kill.
When we were shooting our story at weSpark I was especially impressed with the therapy for children. I watched as group of a dozen kids from different ethnic and economic backgrounds played in an open room. Each child either has a parent with cancer or had lost a parent to the disease. Contrary to what you might think, the children were not sad or despondent. They were rambunctious and noisy. When the leader finally brought them together in a circle and calmed them down, she asked "What feeling would you like to leave here, and what feeling would you like to take home with you?" Most of them wanted to leave "excitement" - their word for being a bit hyper-active. Others said they wanted to leave anger. And what did they want to take home with them? Happiness.
weSpark is place where they can find it.