Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Candice Strong honors sister's legacy through 'Tricia's Troops'

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WAUKESHA COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it often turns into a battle for their whole family. People rally around to help however they can. Tricia’s Troops is an organization in Waukesha County that provides help for cancer patients who may not have that kind of support system.

Candice Strong is the executive director of the organization that her sister, Tricia, started. Strong says her sister’s legacy is now her purpose.

In 2010, Tricia Wright was a young mom to two little girls, a loving wife and sister.

“Tricia was absolutely amazing,” Strong said. “She was the most vibrant, loving, caring, compassionate person, an absolute go-getter.”

Strong remembers when the family got the news no one wants to hear. Tricia had been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at the age of 35.

“That very first night when we found out that she had cancer, I remember going to the kitchen and thinking, how do we even make a meal,” Strong said.

But then something miraculous happened. Their whole community stepped in to help.

“We were fortunate and blessed to have an amazing support system that really just helped with getting her to treatment, getting the girls to school, making the meals,” Strong recalled.

Strong may not have known it at the time, but not every cancer patient has that support system around them.

“I was kind of naïve in that I thought that everybody had what we had,” she said. “I thought everybody has a supportive family, and wonderful friends.”

The family thought of them as troops, of sorts.

“It was this overwhelming feeling of just an army of people that were around us,” Strong said.

It inspired Tricia to start an organization to give others that feeling.

“The purpose is provide comfort, relief, and inspiration for patients,” Strong said, describing the mission.

Before she passed away in 2012, Wright launched Tricia’s Troops, realizing the need cancer patients have for that strong support system.

“Some people are living alone, going through this journey by themselves, and so it really is important to have a hand with some of those different things that we kind of take for granted,” Strong explained.

Tricia’s Troops just moved into a new office in Delafield, which is packed with all of the essentials patients may need.

“It's things like blankets and socks, water bottles, Chapstick,” she said. “All the different kinds of things that can provide some relief.”

They’re must have items for patients facing chemotherapy and radiation. Tricia’s Troops provides them free of charge. The organization also does much, much more.

“We focus on the practical concerns,” Strong said. “The out-of-pocket costs and the non-medical daily living needs that people have.”

And just as Tricia had envisioned, it’s a community effort.

All of the supplies for their relief and care totes come from donations.

“With our kids being home and homeschooling, we wanted to find a way to give back,” said volunteer, Jamie Schultz.

Schultz and her two sons, Mason, 11, and Miles, 9, are organizing a drive to collect items for the radiation relief totes.

“It makes me feel kind-hearted. It makes me feel like a good person,” Mason said.

Schultz said she is impressed with the impact the project has had on the boys.

“It's a beautiful way and a hands-on way to teach the importance of so many aspects of giving,” she said.

Schultz said the boys aren’t only learning the importance of giving, but they’ve also been inspired by Tricia’s story.

“I like that she fought, because that just touches me that she was a warrior,” Mason said.

“They were very impacted by Tricia's story and the fact that she has her daughters,” Schultz said.

As executive director of Tricia’s Troops, that’s what Strong is working for every day.

“It's now my life's greatest mission to fulfill what she started,” she said.

She’s keeping her sister’s passion for helping others alive.

“Even though I lost her, I know there's still purpose for my life by getting to help other people who are going behind her on this journey,” Strong said.

Strong said church groups, schools and other community organizations often organize drives to collect items for their tote bags. There’s a wish list on their website, and for more information, and how you can help, just visit www.triciastroops.org.

If you’d like to nominate someone for Natalie’s Everyday Heroes, send Natalie a message at nshepherd@cbs58.com.

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