Berkeley Today Stories
Health Services Management student Antoinette Kassas held a toy and clothing drive at Children's Cancer Center of Lebanon.
Berkeley College Student Delivers Joy to Children with Cancer in Lebanon
When Danny Thomas founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 1962, he made a pledge to bring his mission of healing to Lebanon, where his parents were born. That dream was recently embraced by another Lebanese humanitarian with a future in healthcare.
Antoinette Kassas, a Paramus resident and Health Services Management student at Berkeley College, had searched for a charity to support during the holiday season. She discovered the Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon (CCCL), a pioneer cancer treatment center affiliated with St. Jude that works in close collaboration with the American University of Beirut Medical Center.
“I have come to love the country my family is from,” she said, adding that she is the first generation to be born in the United States. “I know that many families living in Beirut, the capital, and throughout Lebanon are not able to provide simple things for their children. When I read about Danny Thomas and the story of CCCL, it struck my heart. I knew this was the place I wanted to support.”
In October 2014, Ms. Kassas reached out to CCCL with an idea: She wanted to hold a toy and clothing drive for the children at the cancer center, and hand-deliver the items during an upcoming visit to Lebanon.
“We at CCCL were overwhelmed by Antoinette’s positive spirit and her eagerness to help the children of Lebanon,” said Charles Helou, Fundraising Executive for Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon. “Her actions supported CCCL’s lifesaving mission: a future with no cancer.”
After contacting CCCL, the 20-year-old student looked to her college for help. Throughout the year students, faculty and staff at Berkeley College provide assistance to charities in the areas of food, shelter, health and student success. Janelle Giles, Berkeley College Director, Student Development and Campus Life, jumped at the chance to participate in her first overseas initiative.
"Antoinette had the heart to look beyond community service here at home, and we were happy to support her,” Ms. Giles said.
The “Let There Be Laughter” drive at Berkeley College in Paramus and Woodland Park resulted in the collection of more than 200 items, including games, toys, socks, slippers and scarves for the children of CCCL. The College and CCCL paid to ship the items overseas, where Ms. Kassas and family friends in Lebanon delivered the items to the children.
“It was amazing how Antoinette was able to communicate with the children even though she spoke a different language,” said Mr. Helou. “I believe that Antoinette’s kindness toward the children made the communication easy.”
Ms. Kassas said that her visit to the hospital inspired her to continue to support CCCL and gave her confidence in her decision to pursue a career in healthcare when she graduates later this year.
“The patient I remember most was a six-month-old baby girl,” Ms. Kassas said. “She was lying down on her hospital bed and had a huge scar going from the back to the top of her head. It was very emotional for me to see someone so little having to go through this. This trip made me certain that I want to work with children.”
Ms. Giles said there is no doubt Ms. Kassas will be successful in her chosen field.
“When you work in healthcare, you have to have a humble spirit and a caring heart,” she said. “Antoinette has these qualities and they will make her a fantastic professional.”