COVENTRY — After a brief but courageous cancer battle claimed her mother’s life last year, Becky Rossi was determined to pay homage to her memory in a way that would make her proud.
“My mother was amazing,” Rossi said Tuesday, as she reflected on her family’s decision to create care packages for women diagnosed with breast cancer. “And she fought really, really hard.”
Linda Ahern, known by Rossi’s children and the students at the school where she volunteered as “Mimi,” was 70 years old when she died last October, six months to the day after her stage four cancer diagnosis.
An employee of Creative Corner Family Hair Salon in Coventry, Rossi was able to take time off during her mom’s illness to be by her side.
“The day of diagnosis I stopped working, and my salon let me,” Rossi said, adding that they also helped put the care packages together. “They were wonderful.”
The days of her mom’s treatments seemed almost never-ending, Rossi said. It was those long days of waiting and wondering anxiously whether treatment would work that eventually served as inspiration for the Mimi Bags.
“I said to myself, ‘I want to do something else for women and families who are going through this,’” she said. “I thought, ‘imagine if she would have gotten one of these bags, how wonderful she would have felt. I can hear her now saying, ‘this is just so sweet.’”
Each Mimi Bag is filled with a variety of items to help women as they undergo treatment for breast cancer.
The goal this year, Rossi said, is to create 250 bags for donation to the Gloria Gemma Foundation and Rhode Island Pink Heals to be distributed to women throughout the state.
A pink tree set up at Creative Corner is filled with little hearts, each boasting a breast cancer ribbon and the name of someone who donated to the cause. It’s thanks in part to those donations that Rossi’s vision has been brought to fruition.
“This just started as something I wanted to do,” Rossi said, “and next thing you know, I have enough to make 250 bags.”
Rossi added that all the support by local businesses, and especially by the women she works with, has been “amazing.”
Inside each Mimi Bag is a pack of tissues, chapstick, ginger and chocolate candies to stave off nausea, and a pink pen with the words “keep fighting” written on it.
Donated by Carpenter-Jenks Funeral Home, each bag also includes a pair of fuzzy socks, as well coupons for discounted areola tattoos and eyebrow micro-blading donated by Flawless Beauty RI. Wickford Dental Association also donated hand sanitizer, plastic cups and brochures on how to care for teeth during treatment.
At Blackrock Elementary School, a “pink out day” raised $214 to offset the cost of 250 word-search books; at Cedar Hill Elementary School in Warwick, where Ahern had served as a foster grandmother, a similar event raised enough money to purchase 250 adult coloring books.
Ahern loved to do word-searches and puzzles, Rossi added — she enjoyed any activity that kept her mind busy.
The hope, Rossi said, is for each Mimi Bag to bring light to someone undergoing the ordeal her mother went through.
“I know she would love that,” she said. “For women in their darkest hour, someone is thinking of them.”
And despite the tragedy that inspired the cause, Rossi is sure Mimi would be proud.
“It’s tough,” she continued, “but this turns something awful into something positive for other families.”
Rossi hopes to continue making Mimi Bags each year, and to eventually apply for nonprofit status. Those interested in donating — next year’s goal will be to create 500 bags — can reach out to Rossi via email at email@example.com