ESL Jefferson Award winner brings joy into the lives of children battling cancer

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — News10NBC and ESL Federal Credit Union are proud to partner in recognizing five individuals who have gone above and beyond as winners of the 2021 Jefferson Awards. Meet one of the honorees, Lynne Stiefler.

For most people, retirement means a chance to relax or maybe play golf, but retirement looks different for Stiefler. She started an organization called CURE Bears for Hope and Love to help brighten the lives of young kids undergoing cancer treatment and their families in western New York. Her efforts soon expanded across the country.

"If you were to think of one of the most selfless people you’ve ever met in your life, you would instantly think of Lynn Stiefler," Holly Dutcher, the executive director of the C.U.R.E. Childhood Cancer Association said.

After spending almost 30 years as a pediatric oncology nurse, Stiefler was inspired by the positive attitudes and resilience of the kids in her care.

"If you’ve ever dealt with a child going through cancer treatment, it changes you," Stiefler said. "People often ask ‘why… why did you work with kids with cancer?’ The kids with cancer are just so inspirational, and I actually loved it."

Now in her retirement, Stiefler found a new way to give back to kids in the fight for their lives.

"By providing a doll that looks like these children who are losing their hair, or a stuffed animal that they can hug tight and bring with them to their numerous hospital stays, it really is a meaningful way to let families and children know that they’re not alone," Stiefler said.

Since creating CURE Bears For Hope and Love in 2013, she’s sent nearly 3,000 stuffed animals and dolls to kids undergoing cancer treatment all across the country.

"She’s so giving, she just wants her community to be a better place and does what she feels is best, and I really think she’s found her calling," Dutcher said.

Stiefler doesn’t just rely on donations to fund her operation. Every week she spends hours collecting and redeeming recyclables so more children can have a personalized stuffed bear at one of the hardest moments in their lives.

"We do have some families that have donated and done fundraisers and donate back, but our biggest thing, believe it or not, is we do pop and can bottle drives," she said.

Stiefler is on a mission to make sure kids fighting cancer know there’s someone in Rochester thinking about them.

"The bear is just kind of a reminder of the fact that they’re not alone," she said.

Learn more about the ESL Jefferson Awards here.