For visitors, next Sunday’s Kitchen Kapers offers a chance to tour fabulous kitchens.
For participants, it offers much more.
The annual event, now in its 33rd year, showcases recently remodeled Upper Arlington kitchens. This year’s tour highlights eight homes, most of them within a few blocks of Lane Avenue.
For Kelly Cousins, president of the event, the tour offers a make-up opportunity for 2020, when the event was cancelled for the first time in its history.
“We missed last year, and there’s so much pent-up excitement for these homes,” Cousins said. “People have watched these homes being renovated as they walked through Upper Arlington and finally get a chance to see them.”
Most of the homes on the tour have been remodeled within the past three years, showcasing up-to-date features and finishes such as waterfall countertops, hidden refrigerators, artisan range hoods, multiple sinks, work-horse pantries and massive islands (one 15-foot monster capable of seating 10 diners).
Brent and Heather Wrightsel are opening their home, which they bought in 2019 after renovating and expanding it with builder Michael Edwards. In addition to a 5-by-12-foot countertop, the home features a butler pantry large enough to serve as a working kitchen, a custom range hood (by Mark Metal Works) and a glass-encased wine cellar.
“I was super-excited to be part of the fundraiser,” Heather Wrightsel said. “I’ve been on the tour before, and every time I do I want to blow out my kitchen and redo it.”
Kitchen Kapers tour raises money for cancer services at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital
But beyond the gleaming countertops, commercial appliances and custom cabinetry lies a serious mission: to raise money for cancer services at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital.
For Cousins and some others involved in the event, the mission carries personal meaning. In late 2019, shortly before accepting the president’s position, Cousins found out her mother had cancer.
“For me, it’s personal,” said Cousins, whose mother is now cancer-free. “I feel like I was called to do this.”
Kitchen Kapers has raised more than $1 million for the hospital’s foundation and Cousins hopes this year’s event brings in more than $100,000.
Traditionally, the funds have supported “integrative care” — services that might not be core to a cancer patient’s care, but serve to enrich their treatment such as an artist-in-residence program or art therapy.
Home tour fundraiser helps cancer patients keep hair
A few years, ago, Kitchen Kapers added a different sort of service to its mission: helping cancer patients keep their hair during chemotherapy.
The idea came from Anne Houser, a 45-year-old Upper Arlington woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago.
“Like any patient, I was very concerned about losing my hair,” Houser said. “I started researching any options I had. That’s when I learned about cold caps.”
Invented in Europe more than 20 years ago, cold caps are tight caps filled with a cold gel that cancer patients wear before, during and after chemotherapy. The caps narrow blood vessels in the scalp, reducing the amount of chemotherapy medicine that reach the hair follicles, thus preserving the hair.
Houser rented a brand of cold cap called Penguin during her treatment and estimated that she kept 80% of her hair.
“It provided me with privacy and helped me to retain a sense of dignity and self-preservation at a time when nothing was sacred,” Houser said. “Keeping my hair allowed me to look like a healthy person, and when you look like a healthy person, you’re treated like a healthy person, and when you’re treated like a healthy person, you act like a healthy person.”
But Houser also knows many women can’t afford the caps, which typically cost $400 to $500 a month to rent, easily topping $2,000 for the duration of chemotherapy.
“I shouldn’t get to keep my hair just because I could afford to,” she said. “Everyone who wants to keep their hair should be able to.”
Houser was familiar with Kitchen Kapers and reached out to the organization’s leaders to see if they would be interested in helping pay for cold caps. After getting the group’s support, Houser arranged to partner with Penguin to provide the caps through Over My Head cancer care boutiques at the Bing Cancer Center at OhioHealth and Dublin Methodist Hospital.
Through the program, Kitchen Kapers covers 75% of the cost to patients for the cold caps. The program has become the biggest recipient of Kitchen Kapers’ funds, Cousins said. Since starting the program in January 2019, more than 60 cancer patients have used the service.
“It’s beyond gratifying,” Houser said. “It personally, selfishly, helps me heal. It gives my own diagnosis purpose. I’m exceedingly grateful for Kitchen Kapers to being open to this.”
Also directly impacted by cancer are MaryAllison and Gregory Comfort, who will open their remodeled kitchen to visitors during the tour, in part to honor Gregory’s mother, Robin, who passed away from cancer two years ago at age 63. Robin Comfort, who was active in Upper Arlington civic affairs, lived in the home before MaryAllison and Gregory moved in and renovated the kitchen.
“This is definitely a way we can give back,” MaryAllison said, “and help a cause dear to our family.”
If you go
The Kitchen Kapers tour of eight Upper Arlington homes will take place from noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 12. Tickets, which support cancer services at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, cost $30 in advance or $35 the day of the tour. For details, including addresses and ticket purchases, visit KitchenKapers.org.