In 1999 Judy and Mitchell Kinsel moved to Polson. Mitchell was battling brain cancer. They found that life would be easier if Judy had someone  to pick up groceries, run errands, walk the dogs or sit with Mitchell while she was away. After Mitchell died Judy carried through on their idea to establish a non-profit organization of volunteers for the primary purpose of helping patients and their families with the every day tasks of life.

Judy established Cheerful Heart, Inc. At first the officers of the organization were family members. In 2002 Linda Graven, Valerie Lindstrom and Mac Binger joined Judy on the board of directors. The organization received its 501 C3 status in June 2002 and went to work.

The Montana Cancer Center established the Polson Oncology Clinic in the Grandview Clinic building just west of the hospital in 2001. Cheerful Heart became a presence at the Tuesday clinic  connecting with patients to provide a helping hand.  CH found quilt makers to make “a warm gift of love” to keep patients comfortable as they received treatment.

Through the past 12 years CH services have grown and changed. The number of volunteers who give time, energy and love to cancer patients has remained stable. Volunteers connect with patients and their families at the clinic each Tuesday providing and serving soup and other refreshments. Conversation flows and laughter is easy in the caring atmosphere.

In addition to help with every day tasks and clinic support, CH services now include the Wigs, Hats & Scarves Program, a lending library, a Cancer Support Group and the Cheerful Touch Program. Cheerful Touch was established in 2012 after cancer survivor Renee Bassett followed-through on her wish to give back. Cheerful Touch services are free to cancer patients and include massage, hair and skin care, manicures and pedicures.  Renee Bassett and fellow beauticians will work from Salon Envy on 7th Street. Massage therapists are located in Polson and Charlo. Patients can get a massage either in the therapist’s business or at home.

The clinic moved to the third floor of St. Joseph Medical Center in 2005, and in 2009-10 the space was remodeled and became the Otto G. Klein Memorial Cancer Center. Cheerful Heart, Inc. donated $10,000 to the remodel project. The waiting room includes a kitchen area which gives CH work space.  A wigs, hats and scarves inventory exists to give patients a head covering for warmth, hair or adding a splash of color.

Today’s Cheerful Heart has grown but the mission remains the same, to provide free non-medical services for Lake County cancer patients.  Anyone who needs a service or would like to be part of this giving organization can call the message line 883-3070.