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7Everyday Hero Paula Matsumoto leads group to craft bags of hope for chemo patients

Posted at 11:19 AM, Jun 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-17 13:35:24-04

ARVADA, Colorado — Bestselling author Steve Maraboli once said, "Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient." That is something Paula Matsumoto knows well.

Years ago, Matsumoto lost her husband to colon cancer. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. During this hard time, she refocused her attention on helping others and spreading joy. So, she started making small gift bags for people going through chemotherapy and recruited some of her friends to help.

"It just was something I wanted to do to cheer people up, when they had chemotherapy — a little surprise maybe," she said.

Her friend Judy Smelser said she knew the gift bags would encourage her if she had to go through chemotherapy, so she was happy to help Matsumoto.

Each month, the group makes about 200 bags filled with games and well wishes for oncology patients. They make flower bouquets and Paula works with school kids to paint rocks.

The group has never met the recipients, but knows the toll a cancer fight takes.

"I sat with my brother through his chemotherapy and I know how long and lonely that hour or two hours is, but he always looked forward to having a little something that I would take in," said volunteer Jane Ferris.

Smelser said her husband and Matsumoto's husband were good friends. She said Matsumoto's husband died two months before Smelser's husband.

Together, the ladies have found hope, purpose and the strength to encourage others to keep going.

"I just feel truly blessed and I feel like I need to help other people with their journey," Matsumoto said.

Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. She also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.