Gloria Gemma unveils new healing program in Cranston

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The Gloria Gemma Healing Arts Program/Music Therapy is a new program by the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation and was unveiled in Cranston on June 28. The program launched at White Light Books & Gifts, located at 1462 Park Avenue, is owned and operated by Gloria Monger. This new program offers patients and families a range of music therapy experiences as complementary therapies to enhance their well-being during treatment and beyond.

The half-day event began with the Gloria Gemma Hope Bus, a 38-foot-long pink RV equipped as a mobile resource and wellness unit that carries programs to teach and comfort breast cancer patients and survivors. When in Cranston, it is sponsored by Taco, Inc., also of Cranston. On board the bus, visitors took part in the many activities offered throughout the event, which included reiki, workshops and Zentangle, a form of meditative drawing with instruction by artist and Cranston resident Mary Jane Bohlen.

"There was a lot happening throughout the event,” said Maureen DiPiero, Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation community outreach coordinator. "We wanted the day to be upbeat and positive, in keeping with our philosophy of celebrating life."

The Hope Bus was acquired with a donation from The Halkyard Family Fund. Initiated in April 2011, the Hope Bus outreach program has received critical financial support from Taco/The White Family Foundation, the Rhode Island Foundation, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and the Amgen Foundation. Hope Bus visits include educational, arts-based and therapeutic programming related to breast cancer awareness and early detection.

The Gloria Gemma Healing Arts Program/Music Therapy also included healing through music, as part of a new initiative by the Foundation.

“Music is a recognized expressive art that is being studied scientifically in the area of mind-body interactions and relationships,” stated Joe Yanish of Cranston, who has witnessed firsthand how music helps to heal in his job at the Veterans Administration Hospital. “The power of music has been shown to affect the mind and body in the following ways: lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and depression associated with cancer treatment, reduce pain by increasing the production of endorphins, increase production of proteins that speed healing and reduce the danger of infection and reduce stress and promote relaxation.”

Yanish, whose wife is a breast cancer survivor, initiated the Music Therapy part of the new program. His son, Michael, who is the youngest member of the Rhode Island Songwriters Association at just 19 years old, also performed at the program kickoff at White Light Books & Gifts. He is a junior at URI studying communications. Presently, the Association includes more than 140 singers and songwriters. Yanish previously performed during the Gloria Gemma Flames of Hope in downtown Providence, held each October.

Joanne Lurgio is also part of the Association. A five-time Motif Magazine Music Award Winner and 2012 Female Vocalist of the Year, 52-year-old Lurgio headlined the event.

“Going as far back as I can remember, I remember being shy about my singing and I would sing alone in my bedroom,” said Lurgio.

It was not until the 1970s when she first performed in public. Lurgio performs, for the most part, around New England and her son, 32-year-old Joseph Lurgio, performs with the group Three Tall Pines in the Boston area.

“Breast cancer has touched my life, like it has so many others whether they are battling it or are supportive of someone going through it, and music has been my medicine,” said Lurgio. “When I learned about this new program with the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Foundation, I wanted to help and become a part of it.”

Patients are encouraged to design their own music sessions. Music interventions may include singing, composing, playing or learning a musical instrument, relaxation, guided imagery, improvisation and musical games.

The Healing Arts/Music Program at the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation is comprised of a team of talented local musicians committed to meeting the physical, psychological, cognitive and communication needs of current breast cancer patients, survivors and caregivers.

“We want this program and the amazing talent of our local Rhode Island musicians to touch the lives of as many patients, survivors and families as possible. We intend to bring the program throughout Rhode Island with our Hope Bus, into the homes of our patients, survivors and families, and as a regular event at our Foundation’s Center in Pawtucket through monthly Coffee Houses and special support groups for everyone touched by breast cancer, including men and teens,” said Maria Gemma, executive director of the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.

For more information, contact the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation at 861-HERO (4376) or Joe Yanish at jjy10@cox.net.

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