The lights are on at Michelle’s Place Breast Cancer Resource Center. The doors open into a welcome area, a great room with overstuffed couches and chairs easily pushed out of the way for yoga sessions or community meetings.
At the front desk during business hours, a volunteer will ask all who enter, “How can I help you?”
Kim Goodnough, Director of Michelle’s Place, spoke to the group of 98 Reality Rally contestants explaining the “why” behind the two day reality contest, organized by Gillian Larson of Survivor Gabon.
“People come to Michelle’s Place because they have breast cancer and need answers, or a shoulder to cry on. A wig or haircut for a woman undergoing chemotherapy,” Goodnough said. “Every woman, every family is different. Everyone has different needs and can learn from the experience of others who have been through our doors.”
Each Reality Rally contestant must “pay to play” in the Amazing Race style game by raising at least $500 for the breast cancer resource center. But after the glitter of Reality Rally fades, Michelle’s Place returns to serving people in need, at their level of need.
“As a person, Michelle loved that feeling of knowing she could help others,” Goodnough told the room full of Reality Rally reality star participants. “That was Michelle’s dying wish.”
Michelle’s Place sits in the center at Jefferson and Overland in Temecula, a vast difference from its tentative beginning, according to Michelle’s mother, Marilyn Watson, founder of Michelle’s Place.
“When we started, we had a small office we shared with a church,” Marilyn said. “The first Michelle’s Place was just a voice on the phone, offering guidance and information. Now, we are able to provide so much more.”
The small office grew to a 600-square-foot space, offering wigs, prosthetics, and someone to talk to. And that was just the start. In 2014, Michelle’s Place provided almost 9,500 free services, including the Breast Health Assistance Program, where newly diagnosed women are navigated through their treatment process, according to Goodnough.
Women in need are granted a resource room, with free Wi-Fi, computers, and a printer to use. They are provided with a lending library, information on hospice, financial assistance, meditation and relaxation, yoga, a shopping and fitting room for custom prosthesis and specialized bras, as well as post-surgery wraps.
“Our women love the shopping room, where they can try on wigs, wear a totally different hair color or style, find a comfortable bra to wear healing from surgery,” said Goodnough. “As for most insurances, women are only provided one prosthesis and one bra per year, and I’m not sure if you can imagine only having one bra to wear, but it’s not enough. We’re always looking for ways to serve more.”
Going above and beyond is customary at Michelle’s Place, as everyone who walks through the doors has a specific need.
“If we don’t have an answer for them, we’ll find it,” Goodnough said. “We have helped our ladies with backpacks and back to school supplies for their kids, with utilities, with childcare. And that is just some of the things that benefits such as Reality Rally help fund.”
Michelle’s Place also assists women with the key element that many cancer-fighters need to maintain—understanding from women who have been through what they are going through, according to Goodnough.
“Michelle’s Place offers support groups for parents with cancer, for women with ovarian cancer, for those with metastatic cancer who will always be fighting cancer for the rest of their lives,” Goodnough said. “These are fabulous, strong women who are surviving with cancer for seven, 10, even 20 years.”
Reality Rally contestants came to view Michelle’s story and left once again with much more.
“Hearing that story again, that’s why we come to Reality Rally, that’s why we want to help,” stated James Wallington of CW’s Capture.
Reality Rally’s stars learned not only of the 26-year-old namesake of Michelle’s Place, but of a young woman who loved life, who was active in every way, who looked to help others, and when she found herself in need, traveled to a Santa Barbara Breast Cancer Resource Center to get the answers she needed and wanted to recreate that resource for others in Temecula Valley.
“Michelle wanted this for Temecula,” Marilyn said, describing a building that was much like a home, with couches, and people greeting you upon entry, asking how they can help. “That’s what we’ve built.”
Michelle’s Place is located at 27645 Jefferson Ave. Suite 117 in Temecula. For more information about Michelle’s Place, visit www.michellesplace.org.