On Monday, a WFSB crew went to Waterbury where they witnessed a beautiful act of kindness. A Bristol woman "Paying it Forward" to someone she admires, who herself has been paying it forward with her compassion and kindness.
When WFSB arrived at the Leever Cancer Center, a group of quilters was busy at work inside. They gather twice a month to create beautiful blankets.
Outside the Cancer Center, Dawn Berzinskas told Channel 3's Denise D'Ascenzo about the group's creator, Deborah Van Steenbergen, who Berzinskas met while working at a cancer support group.
Berzinskas told D'Ascenzo that Van Steenbergen's story "is so amazing that I thought it needed to be told."
Berzinskas saw our station's "Pay it Forward" promotion on our website and thought Van Steenbergen would be the perfect person to receive $500. She said, "I immediately thought of Deb. She just has such a spirit and personality."
When reading her story, the WFSB contest judges thought so, too, making it possible for Berzinskas to "Pay it Forward".
After D'Ascenzo handed over the $500 in cash, Berzinskas headed inside.
"I just want to let you know that your story was so inspiring when I met you at the support group and I nominated you for a contest on WFSB for 'Pay it Forward,'" Berzinskas told Van Steenbergen as soon as she saw her.
Van Steenbergen began to cry, hugged Berzinskas and told her fellow quilters, "We just got a $500 donation."
She was still in shock over Berzinskas's generosity when D'Ascenzo arrived.
"Oh, my God. She's amazing," Van Steenbergen and D'Ascenzo replied, "that's what she said about you!"
Van Steenbergen then showed D'Ascenzo a few of the nearly one hundred quilts created by her group.
"I was coming to the Leever Center here with my husband and I noticed people having treatments - whether it was in chemo or radiation - and being here alone and quite often dropped by a car service and then having a treatment and then having to call to get a ride home," she told Eyewitness News. "And I just said to my husband 'I don't understand why people are alone, that they don't have anyone to be with them, anyone to give them a ride'. I said, I have to do something."
So in April, Van Steenbergen started "Quilts that Care." Four months later, this past August, Van Steenbergen's husband Bob died of brain cancer.
"He was an amazing father and husband and I am grateful for the years that I had with him and I am doing this for him and in his honor," Van Steenbergen told Eyewitness News. "I truly believe he is making this happen for me and watching over us."
"Us" includes the dozens of women who carefully construct each quilt.
"I love being with these ladies," said Van Steenbergen. "I feel honored to be here with them."
And a round of applause indicated that the feeling is obviously mutual.
Every quilt made by these talented women is lovingly wrapped with a ribbon and accompanied by a special message from Van Steenbergen and her fellow quilters.
"So that cancer patients know that people are always thinking of them and they're not alone," Van Steenbergen said. "Quilts wrapping cancer patients and their families in the warmth of God's love."
Van Steenbergen's group is working in the Waterbury area right now, but they plan to start groups in other areas of the state, too.
When Eyewitness News asked what more she needs to continue her mission, she said that she can always use more batting, and gift cards to fabric stores and cash donations are also appreciated.
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