National Grid Cancer Survivor Keeps Hope Bus Rolling
Under a gray mist of rain and fog, a bright pink bus spanning 38-feet long stands out in the Dexter Street parking lot at National Grid.
It’s the Gloria Gemma Hope Bus, a mobile unit that roams the community providing education and support to cancer patients, survivors and their families.
Gloria Gemma is a non-profit organization providing free services to individuals and families touched by breast cancer in Rhode Island, southeastern Massachusetts and eastern Connecticut.
For the past twelve years, Jo-Ann Lyon, the fleet maintenance technician for Dexter Street and cancer survivor, has helped raise money for the Hope Bus.
“It was 2007 and I felt fine, but still went for my mammogram,” said Lyon. “That was when my doctor shocked me with the news that I had breast cancer – I was devastated.” Her family supported her through her surgery, then chemo for 16 weeks and then the grueling 33 days of radiation. “My two sisters vowed I would never be alone for my treatments and they never left my side.”
Today Lyon is fully recovered and leading the charge at Dexter Street to support Gloria Gemma and its work. On September 12th, a portion of the second floor on Dexter Street was taken over by tables lined with breakfast sandwiches, pastries, and a giant pink cake with a ribbon on it. There were also tables for bidding on prizes and gifts, pink balloons and crepe paper. There is even a large wooden flag, with a pink ribbon running through it, designed by Noah, the son of CMS Supervisor Frank Pasquale. More than sixty employees took part in the fundraising breakfast.
Nine years ago, National Grid employee Kelson McDaniel lost his father to cancer. The lead project manager for RI DOT work attends as many cancer fundraisers as he can. “I love these events, they are near and dear to my heart,” McDaniel said. “Gloria Gemma does a lot of great work and Jo-Ann is just awesome.”
Jen Zerenski is a corrosion tech for National Grid and attended the breakfast. “In the field, I’ll see our crews wearing pink hard hats and with National Grid we have a lot of visibility to the public and it’s a great way to let people know we care about them.”
With her infectious smile and knack for organizing, Lyon has made a substantial contribution to Gloria Gemma, year after year. She’s raised between $4,000 – $5,000 every year for the Hope Bus. National Grid also matches the donations up to $500 per person. “We are so grateful to Jo-Ann and the National Grid employees for being so generous,” said Maureen DiPiero, the Community Outreach and Education Manager for Gloria Gemma.
Lyon is looking forward to the weekend of October 5th. That’s when she will be once again carrying the torch for Gloria Gemma’s Flames of Hope, a celebration that turns Providence pink to spark awareness, compassion and support. She is the longest-serving torch bearer in Providence. She will be putting pink ribbons on all 150 of the torch bearers. And she’s happy to be giving back.
“I just appreciate life more now, I see is as a glass half full instead of half empty,” said Lyon.