Unsung Hero Award: Andy Cook
Andy had been affected by cancer from a young age; two of his grandparents had died of cancer and his surrogate grandmother had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer and was being treated with chemotherapy. When Andy heard about CancerCare’s Magnolia Meals at Home program, a free meal delivery program for breast cancer patients and their families, he thought it would be a great idea to also give a gift of a book or comic to the patient and their children.
The “Captain Andy’s Comics–Making Connections from the Heart” program took off, with Andy collecting hundreds of books for distribution to cancer patients. Each book has an insert of his comic, and the book is donated in memory of a loved one who has died or in honor of a survivor. Andy also donated comic books to bereaved children and teens who attended the Healing Hearts Family Bereavement Camp.
Additionally, Andy shared his love of comics by attending a “comic book creations” program for bereaved children, explaining how he created his first comic hero, Monkey Man, and encouraged and inspired the kids to tap into their own innate super powers to create their unique super hero.
In May of 2016, Andy was recognized at the Russ Berrie “Making a Difference” award ceremony honoring “New Jerseyans who have made a significant difference in their communities through a lifetime of service or a single heroic act.” In describing Andy’s dedication, CancerCare’s Kathy Nugent, LCSW shares, “Andy is truly an amazing young man who recognizes the beauty and magic of books. In his own quiet way, he has provided so many moments of joy and peace to cancer patients and their children.”
Andy’s mission has now branched out to local hospitals. The Valley Hospital and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center have connected with Andy, and he is now donating his special books to patients at both cancer centers.