Comfort in a Massage and a Memory
- by Matthew Brodsky
Angie’s Spa was founded to give cancer patients a moment of peace, an oasis for restoration, at a time when they may be at their lowest point, during chemo or radiation or after invasive surgery. It was founded in honor of Angie Levy, WG’02.
Levy received her cancer diagnosis at the age of 27, but she did not let the disease define her life. She attended Wharton and after earning her MBA worked for JPMorgan Chase as an analyst in New York City. She fought for remission and a cure up until when her breast cancer returned and metastasized. She died in November 2007 at age 36.
Three friends from her undergrad alma mater, Emory University, wanted to honor her memory. They recalled how Levy often had commented on how nice it would be to get a massage or a manicure during chemo. What better way to do something in memory of Angie than help other cancer patients, they believed. Angie’s Spa was established as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in December 2008.
It is still going strong. In 2013, reports Kathleen Barry Conner, president and co-founder of the charity, Angie’s Spa awarded $126,500 in grants to six programs in cancer centers across the U.S.: Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Northridge, Calif.; Hartford Hospital in Connecticut; Southampton Hospital in Southampton, N.Y.; HealthAlliance Hospital of UMass Memorial Medical Center; MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston; and the University of Florida Medical Center at Jacksonville.
One endearing aspect of the charity is that all board members have been affected by cancer in one way or another. In a sad reminder of how commonplace that is, Angie’s mother and Angie’s Spa board member Ronna received a breast cancer diagnosis in December during a yearly routine mammogram. She is in recovery, though, and reports that she is “looking forward to a healthy future.”
Besides close personal bonds, Angie’s Spa is also grounded in the value of integrative medicine. The goal is to treat the individual, not the disease, letting the medical professionals treat the patient while the Angie’s Spa team treats the person, says Conner.
“There are so many incredible organizations working to find a cure for cancer that we believed, given our financial resources, we could have the greatest impact trying to nurture the person, if only for a brief 30 minutes,” she explains.
They attend to the patient through acupuncture, massage, reiki or yoga sessions, for instance, when the patient fighting cancer is suffering through treatment and its side effects.
“Most days those treatments are debilitating, isolating and terrifying. A free session … can help alleviate some of the anxiety, fatigue and painful physical side effects that accompany the treatments,” Conner says.
Often Wharton Magazine has focused the spotlight on charities that Wharton alumni or students have founded or supported (see “Challenge not Charity” and “First-Ever Mideast School Counters Conflict With Classrooms”), and we are honored (though sad) to have an opportunity to share the story of an organization named in honor of an alumna. It’s in part to “spread the news” of all of the incredible acts of giving that occur within the wider Wharton community, but also to remind those who knew Angie of her imprint in their lives.
Connect with us: Please share a favorite memory below in the comments section if you went to school with Angie Levy or knew her through other paths in life, or contact us by email.