Sherry Norman knows what it’s like to sit for hours in the infusion room receiving cancer treatment. As a patient at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, she found hope and inspiration in an unlikely place—in a horse named Blondie. Blondie has now inspired Sherry to help other cancer patients in the community.

A source of inspiration
Blondie, a 21-year old American Quarter Horse, spends her days in a field just north of Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, and she is a regular sight to patients and to the hospital’s staff that often stop by to pet the horse and feed her apples.

“It just gives me chills thinking about her. She brought us so much hope and comfort just by being there,” Sherry says.

Sherry and other patients came to know Blondie while watching the horse from the 5th floor windows of WVCI’s former RiverBend clinic while they received treatment.

“Horses are amazingly therapeutic animals. They sense you, and they kind of read what you need in a way that is pretty amazing,” says Julie Beckett, Blondie’s owner.

When WVCI consolidated its services at its Eugene clinic a year ago, the view for patients changed. Sherry led an effort to hang a portrait of Blondie in the clinic’s infusion room to comfort patients who’d come to know the horse. But she also wanted to do more for the people who regularly receive treatment at the cancer center.

“It’s really hard to sit in that chair. You’re hoping and praying that whatever treatment you are receiving is going to work,” Sherry says. “And if there is any way to get some distraction from that, some glimmer of hope from that, that’s what you’re looking for.”

Lending a hand
With the help of a group community members, including Julie Beckett, Sherry has formed a nonprofit organization called Blondie the RiverBend Horse. Through the sale of Blondie-inspired T-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, Christmas ornaments and other items, the group is raising money to support patients at WVCI and Sacred Heart Medical Center.

“We’re just hoping to go further and meet the needs of the people in the community who are dealing with cancer and life-threatening illnesses,” Julie says. “I’m really excited about that. I think we’re going to do some great things.”

The group has started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for its efforts. They say they will use the initial funds raised to purchase six iPads and wireless headphones for Willamette Valley Cancer Institute to help patients pass the time while undergoing treatment. Items such as buttons and journals featuring Blondie will soon be for sale in the gift shop at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend, and clothing featuring the horse is available online. You can also follow the nonprofit on Facebook.