In May of 2018, Oncology Specialists of Charlotte’s Oncology Nurse Harding Cranford began an initiative that would touch the lives of countless patients and inspire many others to join her in an act of kindness. Bravery Bags was born out of a deep well of compassion, sparked by a leukemia patient Harding cared for at a previous cancer center in Charlotte. This patient, a true warrior, left an indelible mark on Harding's heart. She saw too many individuals battling their illnesses without the support of family and friends. “I wanted to remind people that they are cared for, especially during the holidays,” said Harding.

What began as a small project quickly blossomed into a remarkable movement. Harding had her devoted "regulars" who eagerly filled these bags year after year, and she welcomed newcomers who were equally eager to lend a hand. It wasn't just individuals; local businesses, fellow healthcare workers, and families all joined the cause.

"I always include a bag and a list of suggestions for donors," explained Harding, "But I encourage them to 'make it their own' by including personal touches. Favorite book? Favorite music? Favorite lotion, snack, or drink? Throw it all in! I ask that no homemade foods be included and that items are mainly unscented."

The recipients of these Bravery Bags span various medical needs, from oncology patients battling cancer to others with unique health challenges, such as those anemic patients receiving iron infusions. While they try to distribute bags primarily to oncology patients due to the extended time spent in their care, they never hesitate to lift the spirits of anyone in need, no matter the diagnosis. Some patients smile, cry, and embrace the nurses with gratitude, while others quietly accept the unexpected act of kindness, and some seem bewildered by the gesture.

Word of mouth and the power of social media play a vital role in involving more and more people in the noble cause. Once the bags are ordered, she distributes them to those who have expressed their willingness to participate. Harding makes it easy for anyone interested to contact her directly, and many volunteers eagerly fill the bags with love and care. Some even send in money or bulk items for her to use.

Balancing her role as an oncology nurse with her personal life —married and a mother of three kids aged 13, 11, and 6— Harding's life is undeniably busy. “Ensuring my patients feel loved and cared for always remains at the top of my priority list,” says Harding. “It is an important life lesson I can instill in my children – the value of giving.” The Cranford family works together to pick up bags and fill them, teaching the younger generation the importance of compassion and generosity.

"Cancer sucks," she says, "And so do all the feelings and side effects that come along with it. Patients receive a bag and know that SOMEONE cares and that they are worth something, always."

Harding encourages anyone interested in donating or volunteering to join this beautiful cause, saying, "The impact of a simple act of kindness can be immeasurable. Whether you're an individual, a business, a fellow healthcare worker, or a family looking to give back, there's a place for you in the Bravery Bags family. Every contribution, big or small, makes a difference."

Donations will be accepted through December. Harding can be contacted by email at

Discover the Difference at Oncology Specialists of Charlotte


published: Oct. 27, 2023, 1:02 p.m.

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