Cancer is never easy for the patient or the patient’s loved ones. But two Morris Township residents and their charity are trying to make cancer a little more bearable and a whole lot brighter.
Christine and Bill Ferdinand, owners of Ferdinand Jewelers in New Providence, are the founders of Operation Bling Foundation, a 501(c)3 that was established in March 2008. The foundation, which was honored with a joint resolution from the State Assembly and Senate in September 2011, delivers sparkly baubles to cancer patients during their hospital stay, brightening up some of their darkest days.
“You feel so good when you give out that gift and you see their face,” Bill said. “Their color changes. They smile and it’s just doing this simple thing of saying, ‘Here you are, but you’re not alone anymore. We get it. We care and we want you to smile.’ That’s what we’re doing.”
Bling gifts are presented completely free and may be given at any point in a patient's journey. The recipient has a choice of a silver cubic zirconium ring, earrings, necklace or bracelet. There are even gifts for male patients, such as watches, money clips and crosses. All gifts are presented in a Lucite crystal box nestled in a white organza pouch that contains the poem, "What Cancer Cannot Do."
Four years, $300,000, 9,754 bling gifts, and 11 hospitals across three states later, the foundation is trying to expand—a costly endeavor—and they are asking for the public's help to get national exposure on The Ellen Degeneres Show.
The Ferdinands said this past year was not a good fund-raising year due to the economy.
“It wasn’t as strong, but we’re still supplying all the hospitals and this is why Chris is [trying to get on The Ellen Degeneres Show],” Bill said. “We need someone to give us a boost to get us to the next level. We’re definitely going to be sustaining the ones that we are in—that’s not a problem. But to get to the next level, we need to get the funds. Once we’re in another facility, we will do fund-raising through them. At Robert Wood Johnson, [a hospital waiting to join the foundation], we would sell Bling in their cafeteria. But we have to get in the door. So it’s a start-up and it’s a conservative $3,000 we need, at a minimum. Then we have to make sure we’re sustaining any new facilities.”
The Ferdinands said it’s not just as simple as supplying one hospital with one unit of "Bling." Instead, they supply each cancer treatment department with one unit of Bling.
To get just one hospital department started, they need $3,000 to $5,000 in funding.
“If we go into a hospital, we’d love to give 200 Bling. The cost of that donation is $5,000. We don’t charge the hospitals one cent,” Bill said. “If they use it up, they could Bling it up in six months and then we have to replenish. We have 11 hospitals. We have about 90 units, [consisting of one tray each of earrings, pendants, rings and bracelets], out there right now.”
Chris said it could cost about $25,000 or more per year for just one of the 11 hospitals.
So why are the Ferdinands trying to get help specifically from Ellen Degeneres?
“She’s cool. She’s really cool and she’s philanthropic, and I think she would love this,” Chris said. “It would be right up her alley, I think, to see a foundation like us making a difference in the way that really makes a difference.”
Bill and Christine are asking community members to support Operation Bling, which received the American Cancer Society’s “Humanitarian Award” in 2008, by writing to Ellen and asking that Operation Bling be invited as a guest on her show.
Just being on the show could help the foundation immensely, Bill said.
“It’s the exposure and that we could get contributions that will enable us to reach out to more hospitals than what we’re doing now. That’s what we’re getting at,” he said. “We’re helping thousands and we’re making a difference every day in someone’s life.”
You can write to Ellen directly on her show’s website, http://www.ellentv.com/be-on-the-show/653/.