Tis the Season of Giving

Renee Schlachter
December 21, 2018

 As we head into Christmas, this week we delivered Christmas gifts to the Children’s Cancer Association Chemo Pal program. It was our 2nd year contributing gifts to this program. We’re very thankful for the spirit our employees bring to this endeavor—we donated 50 gifts to the program this year!

We were originally introduced to the Chemo Pal program through the inspiring story of young Holly Bruno, who lost her battle with cancer earlier this year.


While delivering these gifts, I had the opportunity to ask Kacy Smerke, Senior Program Manager, more about CCA’s Chemo Pal program. 

Tell us a little about the Chemo Pal Program?

CCA’s award-winning Chemo-Pal® Mentor program gives kids a caring, trusted, adult friend to look forward to during treatments, and someone in their corner when they need it most. Our mentors play games, listen to music, share hobbies, or simply offer the comfort of companionship, relieving the anxiety, loneliness, and isolation experienced by children in treatment. A Chemo Pal mentor can also give parents a much-needed break to grab a cup of coffee, talk with doctors, or spend time with their other children. Each year, CCA delivers the joy of friendship to approximately 240 Pacific Northwest children and teens. CCA Chemo Pal mentors are carefully screened, trained, and thoughtfully matched with families, including those with bilingual needs. Chemo Pal mentors and kids spend about 4 hours per month together, both in hospital and out in the community enjoying activities like sporting events, concerts, and craft and gaming nights. The average match lasts 12 months, or for the duration of a child’s treatment. CCA provides ongoing support and education for our front-line volunteers.

If you want to contribute your time to this program, how do you become a Chemo Pal?

The first step to becoming a Chemo Pal Mentor is to fill out the CCA volunteer application and then you would be invited to attend our volunteer orientation. From there you have the opportunity to start the process of becoming a Chemo Pal. You will be scheduled for an interview, where you will receive a training manual, mandatory paperwork, and our Chemo Pal Mentor training schedule. All of our Chemo Pals are also required to submit fingerprints for a background check.

How many kids does this program currently support, and how long has it been active?

Christmas 2018 blog 1

The Chemo Pal Program supports approximately 240 matches each year. And the Chemo Pal Toy Closet has been filled by donations since the program started in 1999!

How can individuals send gifts, outside of a campaign like we did here?

 We accept donations all year round – that’s how we keep our closet filled! The best way to know what we are looking for (because kids’ interests are always changing!) is to check out our general wish list/donation guidelines and our Amazon Wishlist.

What other volunteer opportunities or programs that we can help give back to the CCA in the Portland area?

CCA is supported by an incredible amount of community events that are always looking for dedicated volunteers. We also have a Hallway Harmonics program for those looking to share their musical talents in the hospital setting. For a complete list of ways to get involved, please be sure to check out the “Get Involved” page on our website.

What do you like best about working for the CCA?

You get to see joy on the faces of kids facing something so terrible. To walk into a room and see a smile on a kid’s face because you brought them toys and a great Chemo Pal mentor to support them, there’s nothing better!

Christmas 2018 blog 2You’re absolutely right, Kacy, and we so thankful we have the opportunity at Extensis to contribute to a program like this, especially during the holiday season.

Happy holidays everyone!


renee-schlachterRenee Schlachter – Director, Culture & People, Human Resources

Renee leads global human resources at Extensis, including talent acquisition, compensation, benefits, training, and organization development. Renee thrives on helping employees problem-solve to be more effective at work. She brings over 20 years experience in Human Resources, working with technology companies in California and Oregon. While not at work, she enjoys spending time outdoors in beautiful Oregon with her family and exploring some good hiking trails and lake boating.