Jennifer (left middle) and Greg Thorpe (middle) with their three kids. (Source: Just-A-Break Foundation)
Jennifer (left middle) and Greg Thorpe (middle) with their three kids. (Source: Just-A-Break Foundation)

The past three years have been the best of his marriage, Greg Thorpe said.

Considering the circumstances, this is far from intuitive for the Weber State University graduate and his wife.

Almost three years ago, Thorpe’s wife Jennifer was diagnosed with terminal-stage colon cancer. Doctors said that she would likely have little time left to live.

But while this diagnosis came as a shock to the parents of three, events have since taken an unexpected turn. While the treatments are still painful and exhausting and while emergency trips to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City are still common, the couple has found hope and purpose in helping other cancer patients.

That is inspired, largely, by others who have helped them.

In 2014, Jennifer and Greg were one of 12 couples to attend the Oscar’s banquet in Los Angeles, thanks to “Say Yes to Hope,” an organization dedicated to raising cancer awareness. Earlier this year, they were able to return once more.

Those weekends in California helped the Thorpes forget about their everyday struggle, at least for a moment, Greg Thorpe said. When they realized how much this break had helped them, they came up with an idea for a non-profit organization that would provide a similar break for many other families with cancer patients.

“My family knows first hand the mental, emotional and financial strain that cancer can bring to patients and their families,” Greg Thorpe said. “My family and I want to help.”

“We are looking for businesses around the community to donate some of their products or services to our organization,” Thorpe said. “Then, we build packages and give them to cancer patients and their families.”

These packages can come in very different shapes and forms, from a night’s stay at a spa hotel to restaurant gift cards. Ultimately, the wishes and physical capabilities of the patient decide which package to redeem.

“For example, there is no point in giving someone a gift card for a Thai restaurant if the individual doesn’t enjoy Thai food,” Thorpe said.

“Our vision is that, one day, we will have a network of volunteers and businesses throughout Utah that can meet the need for this kind of program,” Thorpe said. But for now, he sometimes still ends up paying for the packages himself.

“At this stage, we are looking for volunteers to personally visit hotels, restaurants, spas and other businesses to give them a summary of the idea behind the project,” Thorpe said.

Those interested in volunteering or donating should visit www.justabreak.org.

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