If you’ve ever ventured through the doors of a HomeGoods store, you know that every trip is different from the one before. The national home retailer, alongside its sister store Homesense, offers customers an ever-changing selection of merchandise. Last summer, HomeGoods offered shoppers something completely unique: reusable shopping bags featuring the artwork of 12-year-old Mateo, a pediatric patient at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund Clinic.
The limited-edition bags were sold as part of the “HomeGoods Helps Families Fight Cancer” campaign, with proceeds benefitting cancer care and research at Dana-Farber. HomeGoods and Homesense are longtime partners of the Institute, supporting its mission for more than 21 years. In addition to bag sales, customers were invited to make a contribution to Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund at checkout. The program raised more than $2.9 million in 2021, a phenomenal contribution to Essential Opportunities in The Dana-Farber Campaign.
This year’s patient artist, Mateo, was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at just 8 years old. Typically, more than 90% of ALL pediatric patients are cured with chemotherapy, but despite Mateo’s aggressive treatment plan, his chemotherapy was not successful. Oncologists informed the family that Mateo would need a stem cell transplant.
Neither Mateo’s parents nor his three siblings were a close enough match to donate bone marrow. Luckily, several months earlier in Germany, a woman named Laura had stumbled upon a kiosk where a nonprofit organization was recruiting bone marrow and stem cell donors. Laura provided a DNA swab in exchange for a chocolate bar. She forgot about the encounter until she received word that she had matched with a patient. She agreed to undergo the procedure to extract her marrow. It was only afterwards that she learned she was Mateo’s only match.
Shortly after his transplant, Mateo developed graft-versus-host disease. It wasn’t long before the cancer was back, and Mateo was told he would need another stem cell transplant. Using Laura’s cells again would be too risky. Fortunately, her bone marrow gave Mateo the extra time needed for scientific discovery to catch up. New drugs made it possible to use donor cells that were not as closely matched to the recipient, and Mateo’s brother Leo was able to donate his stem cells to save his brother’s life.
Today, thanks in part to the cutting-edge research funded by programs like HomeGoods’, Mateo is cancer-free.
“I think this was supposed to happen to me so I could find my true self and inspire other people,” Mateo explains.
Three of Mateo’s drawings were featured on reusable bags at HomeGoods. Each design was shaped by his cancer journey. The elephant is Mateo, strong and sturdy. The bird represents his friend Jordan, a pediatric patient who passed away in 2017. The hearts represent each member of Mateo’s family. And the waterfall is the calm and peaceful energy he wishes for us all.