Donated blankets to keep cancer patients warm this holiday season


It’s often cold outside during the holiday season, but it can be cold inside as well for cancer patients due to the side effects from treatment. However, people receiving chemotherapy at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center will be a lot warmer and cozier, thanks to a donation of 75 soft blankets.

Blankets stacked in front of tree
Patricia Barrera (in pink) surrounded by her donated blankets and infusion center staff Melissa Soderland, clinical director (back right), Lan Ngo, asst. nursing mgr. (front right), Rose Miranda-Ponce, asst. nursing mgr.(back left) and Karsen Koehncke, nursing mgr. (front left).

An Elk Grove woman, who has never been a cancer patient but once leaned on the kindness of strangers, picked the cancer center as the recipient of her annual blanket drive this year after discovering how chilly her friends felt during cancer treatment.

“You never know when cancer could happen to you,” said Patricia Barrera, a housekeeper by day and a volunteer Santa’s helper at night this time of year. “My mother taught me to share your blessings and bring others hope, especially during the holidays.”

Barrera, who immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador, knows what it feels like to struggle. After starting a new life with her family here, she was enjoying being a busy mom until her husband suddenly abandoned her and their four children. 

“I thought my world was destroyed,” Barrera said.

She was left alone and without any financial security. It was Christmas 2009 and Barrera couldn’t afford gifts for her children ages 4, 13, 14 and 18.

One night there was an unexpected knock on her front door When she peeked out the window, she spotted a large bag of wrapped toys on the porch. She still remembers the delight it brought her children and, to this day, does not know who left the gifts.

What she does know is that she will never forget how it restored her faith in humanity. At that moment, she decided to “pay it back” someday.

“Just when you think no one cares, someone shows up,” Barrera said.

Now she is that person who shows up, collecting dozens of colorful blankets to give away to people who appreciate the warmth this time of year.

“It is my way of giving back,” Barrera said.

Barrera uses social media to ask for donations. In addition, 24 Hour Fitness, the gym she works out at in Sacramento, also promotes her cause.

“I’m so inspired by all the generosity of my community,” Barrera added.

Word has spread about her kind deed. The number people who donate to her collection continues to grow.  

“We are incredibly inspired by Patricia and her spirit of generosity,” said the cancer center’s Managing Executive Director of Development Reese Olander. “Every one of these beautiful blankets will go to a UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center patient, who we know will appreciate the warm gesture and the comfort they will bring.”

Barrera’s enormous kindness is contagious. If you would like information on how to contribute to her future holiday giveaways, please contact Olander at

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 100,000 adults and children every year and access to more than 200 active clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 240 scientists at UC Davis who work collaboratively to advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Patients have access to leading-edge care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. Its Office of Community Outreach and Engagement addresses disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations, and the cancer center provides comprehensive education and workforce development programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. For more information, visit

Clinical Trials at UC Davis