Oak Lawn nonprofit brings cheer to cancer patients

OAK LAWN, Ill. (WLS) -- Riding in a red sleigh, of a different kind, Santa made a surprise visit to one deserving Oak Lawn family.

One by one, Santa and his team of "elves" from nonprofit Christmas Without Cancer walked in with gifts and holiday cheer to brighten the spirits of 33-year-old Katie Masek and her daughter Arianna.

"I'm a little overwhelmed," Katie said. "I didn't think that this many people, you know, would be here."

Katie's life changed after she found a lump during a breast self-exam earlier this year. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been undergoing treatment since, putting her life on hold.

"The young moms diagnosed with cancer, they go through so much, trying to raise a family and put up with their treatments and the side effects," said Gerri Neylon, founder of Christmas Without Cancer.

Neylon started Christmas Without Cancer to help families like Katie's 16 years ago.

"I'm an oncology nurse, so I've seen the struggles over the years that cancer patients have gone through," she said.

Since 2013, it's become her passion project.

"Christmas Without Cancer and Gerri is just, they're amazing that they take the time out of their day, their busy day to help people with cancer," Katie said.

Thanks to the generosity of donors and a fundraiser, the organization was able to help more than 20 families this holiday season. They say they hope to help even more next year.
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