By Donald Wittkowski
For a few precious hours Wednesday, Tammy Grosso was able to temporarily forget about all of the consultations with her oncologists, her chemotherapy treatments and the cancer that threatens her life.
She spent the day on the beach in Sea Isle City with her 17-year-old son, Christian, and 13-year-old daughter, Amanda, while enjoying a getaway from the emotional and physical toll of cancer.
“I want to spend as much time as I can with my kids,” said Grosso, a single mother who also has a 15-year-old son named Micah.
Grosso and her children were part of a group of nearly 40 people who came to Sea Isle for a relaxing outing organized by a nonprofit organization called For Pete’s Sake Cancer Respite Foundation.
Normally, For Pete’s Sake and its sponsors team up to send cancer patients and their family members on weeklong trips to the Jersey Shore and other vacation destinations.
On Wednesday, the organization invited some cancer patients and their loved ones to Sea Isle for a sojourn at the 46th Street beach to help ease the stress of cancer – if only for a few hours.
“A lot of people here today said this is on their bucket list, to finally see the beach,” said Marci Schankweiler, the founder and chief executive officer of For Pete’s Sake.
Grosso, 45, of Langhorne, Pa., emphasized that the outing allowed her and her children to escape from the worries of her cancer for the day.
“You want take advantage of all the time that you have and spend it with your family,” she said.
Initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, Grosso underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments and it appeared she had beaten cancer five years later.
However, she developed melanoma in 2016 and another bout with breast cancer followed. She will continue to have chemotherapy treatments indefinitely to help her fight the cancer.
Grosso credits For Pete’s Sake for giving her and her children the emotional support they need. In 2011, the organization sent her and her children to Davenport, Fla., for a weeklong “respite vacation” away from cancer.
“There is ongoing support. There’s the knowledge that they are always supporting you and praying for you. Especially for someone like me, a single mom, it’s hard going out and finding so much support,” Grosso said of For Pete’s Sake.
Shawn and Kim Adams received help from For Pete’s Sake after Shawn was diagnosed with an aggressive form of testicular cancer that required chemotherapy and surgery. The couple, who live in Phoenixville, Pa., have two daughters, 15-year-old Coda and 8-year-old Kaylee Dylan.
Shawn Adams, 35, who is in the IT field, was working Wednesday and didn’t make the beach trip to Sea Isle. His 38-year-old wife explained that Shawn’s cancer is in remission now. His doctors gave the family the great news in January, only three weeks before they left for a weeklong vacation to Florida that was sponsored by For Pete’s Sake.
“There was a lot of crying. I think I was crying for two days straight. They were tears of relief,” Kim Adams said her reaction after the family learned of Shawn’s remission.
While in Florida, the family made stops at Disney World and Universal Studios. At Disney, Shawn wore a button, given to him by his wife, that proclaimed “I kicked cancer’s butt.”
Kim Adams thanked For Pete’s Sake for the Florida vacation, describing it as “a blessing.”
“We blocked out all of the doctors’ calls when we were down there, so it was a true break from everything,” she said.
Cancer patients between the age of 24 and 55 are nominated by a member of their oncology team for the vacations. For Pete’s Sake and its sponsors pay for the trip, handle the travel arrangements and also give the families some spending money.
This year, For Pete’s Sake expects to send 190 families away on weeklong vacations and will give 90 other families “staycations” close to home.
Carol Schwind, a nurse at For Pete’s Sake who books the family vacations, said the trips bring people closer together, especially those who already have cancer as a common bond in their lives. Schwind recently returned from a trip with seven different cancer families to Woodloch Resort in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains.
“Those people went as strangers, but they came back as a family,” Schwind said of the entire group.
The name For Pete’s Sake was inspired by Marci Schankweiler’s late first husband, Peter Bossow Jr., a former Sea Isle lifeguard who died of testicular cancer in 1999 when he was just 30 years old.
Schankweiler, 50, grew up in Sea Isle as Marci Kuttler, the daughter of Mariann and Herb Kuttler. The Kuttler family has owned the Maryanne Pastry Shoppe in Sea Isle for 50 years.
Seven months before he passed away, Pete and Marci traveled to the Caribbean islands of St. John and Nevis during a trip paid for by their friends and family.
During the trip, they came up with the idea of creating For Pete’s Sake to give other cancer patients and their caregivers a “respite”” from the disease. Since its founding in 2000, the organization and its sponsors have helped more than 8,000 people.
“Not just one member of the family gets cancer. It’s the immediate family. It’s the extended family. It’s the neighbors. It’s the colleagues at work,” Schankweiler explained of how cancer touches so many people.
She noted that For Pete’s Sake and its sponsors try to extend a helping hand to cancer patients, their families and their caregivers – creating a far-reaching “ripple effect” that spreads throughout the community.
On Aug. 3, Sea Isle’s annual Captain Bill Gallagher 10-Mile Island Run will partner with For Pete’s Sake to raise money for the organization. The race also honors Bossow.
For more information on the For Pete’s Sake Cancer Respite Foundation, visit https://takeabreakfromcancer.org/