HEADstrong Heroes – Introducing Kendra’s Kindness Fund
Kind. Thoughtful. Genuine. Loving. Unique. Those are all hallmarks of an incredibly special person, and that was exactly who Kendra Muscella was.
Diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer on March 20, 2019 following a colonoscopy, Kendra underwent radiation until the end of April and received multiple rounds of chemotherapy through October 2019. She was scheduled for a colon resection and lymph node dissection at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on November 7th.
Unfortunately, the surgery did not occur due to newly diagnosed adenocarcinoma of the peritoneum, which required more treatments. After 14 months of treatments Kendra entered hospice. She died on May 10, 2020, Mother’s Day in her home surrounded by her loving family – just as she wanted.
For her family – husband Michael and children Olivia and Graham – it was important for Kendra’s genuine, kind and thoughtful spirit to live on through her family, friends and the village that she created while also continuing to make an impact just like she had.
Thus, Kendra’s Kindness Fund was born and there is no better day to announce it than today, September 11th, Kendra’s birthday.
“We wanted to do something that could encompass my mom’s kindness and love for others,” Olivia explained. “I had always wanted to start a fund or organization in my mom’s name. After talking to my family and friends, I was connected to the HEADstrong Foundation through Jackie Radcliffe. She explained that my family could create a Fighter Fund which would raise money to help families that are affected by cancer. My dad had expressed how helpful it was to receive monetary donations to help with expenses, so this was a no brainer. We love to help others just as much as my mom did and we knew that creating Kendra’s Kindness would be a way for everyone to remember her loving, kind and unique spirit.”
Kendra’s Kindness Fund is part of a unique HEADstrong program called Fighter Funds, in which a family can honor a loved one affected by cancer by raising funds through a variety of events of their choosing and donated directly in their name. Once those funds are raised, the family requests where the donations are allocated throughout the different services that HEADstrong provides.
For Olivia and her family, this is the perfect way to keep her mother’s memory alive while connecting with others.
On a routine day, you could find Kendra mowing the lawns of elderly neighbors. She baked her amazing cookies and shared them with neighbors, friends, and kids away at college. She made meals for many families struggling with illness. One Thanksgiving, she handed out turkeys on a local farm when the owner was 9 months pregnant and needed help. That was Kendra.
“We used to say that my mom could talk to a parked car,” Olivia said. “She loved to talk to others and could hold a meaningful, genuine conversation no matter who she was conversing with. Not only that, but she was an even better listener. She showed compassion and made everyone feel like they were heard. She made genuine connections with everyone around her.”
A huge sports family, Kendra and Michael traveled to all of Olivia and Graham’s games to cheer them on. Michael, a Havertown native, is the athletic director at Valley Forge Military Academy while Olivia is a graduate student-athlete playing lacrosse at the University of Massachusetts and Graham is a sophomore at Temple University.
Food is at the heart of the Muscella family. Michael and Kendra would cook and bake together, and the family always prioritized sitting down and eating dinner together. Together, they could engage in meaningful conversations while being present and enjoying their food.
Kendra would bake cookies over the holidays, and people would place orders to enjoy at parties and gatherings. The family also has a pizza oven built by Michael and other family members and they would sell homemade brick oven pizzas right out of their backyard.
“My Mom would send out an email to everyone on the list to announce when we were doing pizza nights,” Olivia said. “People would place their orders and then come to my house and pick up their pizzas. The night before, my parents were up making homemade dough, red sauce and all of the toppings. My Dad would make the pizzas and my Mom would put finishing touches on them and cut and box them while interacting with the customers. There were several occasions when my parents hosted pizza fundraisers at my house to help local charity organizations. My parents were even asked to travel to Florida to make pizzas for a family friend’s wedding.”