Breast cancer survivor helps current fighters one cup at a time
COLUMBIA - About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, according to BreastCancer.org.
A 15-year breast cancer survivor is collaborating with an MU sorority and fraternity to give back to those currently fighting the disease.
Fourteen years ago Jackie O'Rourke began this service project known as "Cups of Kindness." She gathers cups and saucers, places different toiletry items inside, then places an inspirational story inside to complete the gift.
O'Rourke said she was inspired by something someone had done for her.
“Someone had given me a beautiful antique cup and saucer when I had to go in and have surgery. And I felt like having a lateral mastectomy was a very unfeminine thing to have happen. So I took this beautiful cup and saucer and I thought, 'Well I’ll have my coffee in this, and it’ll make me feel feminine.' And then after I had this surgery and I went home, I just had this thought that maybe I could do this for other women,” O’Rourke said.
The completed cups and saucers are given to Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and Midwest Cancer Alliance. The nurses then give the gifts to women currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer free of charge.
O'Rourke said there was an important reason why she picked the items she did to enclose her gifts.
“The reason I have a cup and a saucer is very intentional and deliberate, and it goes back to a time when women would get together and have tea or have coffee and they would sit and visit. So you don’t walk around with a cup and saucer, you don’t take it to your car, it’s not a to-go cup. It’s a time to just sit. And sometimes that’s what we have to do. And in the story it says, ‘Have a cup of tea and talk to the maker,’” O’Rourke said.
The Zeta Tau Alpha sorority chapter at MU has helped the past four years. But this is the first year the men of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity will also help with the project.
Colin Little, President of Missouri Alpha Phi Kappa Psi, said this event is personal to him because his grandma, several aunts, and close friends and family of his struggle with breast cancer.
“Jackie’s really well respected, the guys really enjoy her and her husband is actually our alumni advisor,” Little said.
Steve O'Rourke, Jackie's husband and advisor of Missouri Alpha Phi Kappa Psi, also helps with "Cups of Kindness."
“Phi Psi’s motto is ‘the great joy of serving others.’ And when I think of this, if I can just impact one person and help change their attitude and brighten their day then it’s a success for me,” Little said.
Jackie funds the cups from her own money along with community donations.
The sorority, fraternity and the O'Rourkes will gather Thursday to complete all the cups.