KINGSPORT -- When Gary Waters lost his wife to cancer in 2008, he was heartbroken but extremely grateful to the physicians, nurses and support staff who had helped him along the way.
"They were available for us 24 hours a day – not just for Brenda, but also for me," said Waters, referring to the staff at Kingsport Hematology Oncology Associates, a member of Wellmont Physician Services and the Wellmont Regional Cancer Network. "Because of all they did for us, after she passed away I just wanted to give something back."
It didn't take long for Waters to decide what that "something" should be. He knew firsthand about the need for encouragement experienced by cancer patients and their families. And he knew about the practical need for refreshment while waiting for appointments and during treatment.
While Kingsport Hematology Oncology Associates was excellent at providing snacks, sodas and filtered water, Waters said, he thought there was still room for one more thing – bottles of water with specially designed labels to brighten the days of those battling cancer.
"I have my own business based in Bristol, Va., called Waters-Dorsey Designs," Waters said. "We do custom bottle labels, and my time is limited. Providing bottles of water seemed a perfect way to give back."
But these aren't just ordinary water bottles. The water is pure spring water from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The bottles themselves are recyclable and biodegradable. And each bottle bears a special message.
"It's a tough time for patients and their families," Waters said. "I want to help them smile."
He tries to change the labels each month. He has featured everything from a jolly Santa Claus in December and "Boo Water" in October to smiley faces, pink ribbons and Wellmont Health System logos during other months. Waters even provided labeled water bottles for this year's Kingsport Hematology Oncology Associates Relay For Life team.
"This is a marvelous way for Gary to give our patients a smile as they receive their treatment," said Loretta Hurd, clinical coordinator at Kingsport Hematology Oncology Associates. "The patients love how he decorates the bottles. Some patients are here for long hours, and his help is so greatly appreciated by the patients, volunteers and the staff."
Lisa Steadman, practice administrator, agrees.
"All the nurses say the patients love the water. They especially like that they can carry it with them," Steadman said. "We really believe his dedication to provide water for our patients is amazing and an excellent way to provide compassionate care in a special way to those who might need a special touch at this time in their lives."
Waters plans to continue this commitment for the foreseeable future and has encouraged this concept of giving back throughout his small business.
"Each of our employees has an opportunity to choose an area of interest for us to donate to," Waters said. "It is the community that made us successful, and we believe in giving back."
For Waters, a senior partner and owner of Waters-Dorsey Designs, his choice for giving was always clear.
"The doctors, nurses and staff in Kingsport provided excellent diagnostic and medical services to Brenda," Waters said. "We were always treated with utmost professionalism, care and compassion. They really care."