KAYSVILLE, Utah (News4Utah) – Bringing hope to families through performing arts. That’s the slogan of the Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville.
Every production at the old church turned theatre raises money for a person battling cancer.
News4Utah shares the journey of the theatre’s founder and the stories of those she has helped along the way.
Inside the doors of the Hopebox Theatre stands a wall of hope.
“As long as their names are on this wall, they'll never be forgotten,” said Hopebox Theatre foudner Jan Williams.
It’s Williams’ favorite spot.
“Someone always knows someone on this wall that's really incredible too,” said Williams.
A four-time cancer survivor, Jan came up with the vision for this theatre in 2014 after a very special experience.
“When you say you have a life-changing moment, that's what it was,” said Williams.
Jan was battling Stage 3 ovarian cancer. She was bald head to toe and feeling defeated until 30 of her former theatre students showed up on her doorstep and burst into song.
“Hearing them sing just filled my soul, that's all I can say, it filled my soul,” said Williams.
With revived hope, Jan came up with an idea.
“I just started writing down all of my notes on this little pad of paper right by my bedside, and I just started writing it down and just thinking about how I could give back, how I could have other people feel the same feelings that I just experienced, is that even a possibility?” said Williams.
The Hopebox Theatre was born and the 22 names on this wall have all felt its impact.
“They believe in hope and they believe in, ya know, encouraging people who are struggling and giving them hope and joy,” said Stacie Wheeler, Wall of Hope Recipient.
Stacie Wheeler, a mother of six and grandma of four, is one the names on the wall. She shares her reaction to learning she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
“You just kind of sit there thinking, ya know, you have the wrong person, ya know, go check again, umm, but yeah, it’s devastating and once it sinks in and then you have to tell your family, it's just a really hard thing,” said Wheeler.
Stacie says this theatre lifts some of that heavy burden.
“Just to be able to come and watch and laugh at the jokes and yeah and like you said get away from regular life it was, it was wonderful,” said Wheeler.
Devin Stuart is also on the Wall of Hope. The now 20-year-old was diagnosed with Osteoscarcoma the day after Christmas in 2014. It’s a day his mom Paulette will never forget.
“I remember so vividly, my phone rang. I was on the phone with my mom and I was in the front room and I said Mom I've got to go the doctor's calling and I walked into my room and he said Paulette it is Osteosarcoma Cancer,” said Paulette Stuart.
Devin can’t run. Even walking presents its challenges. Paullete says it’s heartbreaking, but the Hopebox family gives them a reprieve.
“We all have a common bond, we are a family, and we are a hope box family, and there is so much joy,” said Stuart.
This month, Jay Peacock is being added to the wall. He’s battling cancer for a second time. While he was nominated by the play’s lead actor Daylen Bills says Jay isn’t *his* recipient.
“That's one thing about the Hopebox is it's not my recipient, he's all of ours recipients, umm, and it's just really special...” said Bills.
Jay says this battle is tough, but he tries to say positive for his wife and two kids. Hopebox helps feed that positivity.
“I've been able to come out here and meet the cast and get involved and just the whole purpose behind it is, it really helps you to deal with the day in and day out,” said Peacock, 2018 Wall of Hope recipient.
“Just because you have cancer does not mean that you're not living,” said Williams.
That’s the message Jan has for every recipient. Love and joy can sometimes be the best medicine.
“There is no better job in the world that I could ever do than own a theatre that brings in good people with loving hearts and that want to give back and do exactly what I love to do and that is perform, there is no greater feeling,” said Williams.
The Hopebox Theatre production of Crazy for You kicked of Friday, February 9. For a schedule, ticket information or more stories of Wall of Hope recipients, visit www.hopeboxtheatre.com.
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