Nonprofit Spotlight

Gateway to Hope 

Kim, a former Gateway to Hope patient

Gateway to Hope has been a breast cancer lifeline to more than 1,000 patients since 2005. It was then that reconstructive breast surgeon Dr. David Caplin and surgical oncologist Dr. Marlys Schuh began to notice that they were seeing a number of new patients who already were at later stages of breast cancer because they felt they couldn’t afford to see a doctor.

Initially, the two worked to recruit a network of providers to perform care at no cost. Through the years, the organization they founded has shifted its focus to making sure patients have insurance.

“Every month, it’s a question of ‘Am I going to pay my insurance or my mortgage?’ The fact that we ensure that you have insurance by helping you pay the insurance premium—that takes away that burden right there,” said Dawn Van Houten, Gateway to Hope’s executive director.

Van Houten, whose own mother is a breast cancer survivor, knows how devastating it is for a loved one to be diagnosed with a disease that affects one in eight women in the U.S.

“I couldn’t imagine my mother trying to fight her disease by herself. And for someone to face that alone would be so scary,” Van Houten said. “When a woman is diagnosed, she’s immediately faced with a treatment plan…At the same time, they’re worried about how long the treatment is going to take, if they can afford it and if they’re going to be able to work.”

Chantelle, a former Gateway to Hope patient

In 2016 alone, Gateway to Hope helped a record 311 breast cancer patients. In addition to the insurance program, a special fund called Thelma’s Gift assists recipients with everyday necessities like the rent, transportation and even post-surgical compression garments.

And sometimes, the assistance patients receive cannot be tallied.

“A patient came in late one afternoon after a doctor’s appointment. She said the doctor was kind of hurried and she didn’t understand everything the doctor said,” Van Houten recalled. “As she sat in our lobby, one of our nurses visited with her. Our nurses understand the disease, the diagnosis and treatment. So, it’s more than just writing those checks. You’ve got somebody on your side who’s going to listen.”



To secure comprehensive care and provide financial assistance for individuals in need diagnosed with or at high risk for developing breast cancer.


Gateway to Hope’s signature fundraiser, KaleidoHope, will be on Saturday, Oct. 7, at The Chase Park Plaza. Susie Knopf and Phyllis Langsdorf are serving as this year’s co-chairs. For more information, call (314) 569-1113 or visit