KEENE — Naj Wikoff has one less role to fill in 2013.
Now, he is president emeritus after 14 years of leading Creative Healing Connections, a nonprofit agency that serves women with cancer and chronic illnesses, as well as veterans and military families.
The organization’s mission is to provide creative experiences that promote healing and growth.
“Without his leadership, vision, energy and hard work, we would not be where we are today,” Martha Spear, executive director, said in a press release.
Wikoff is succeeded by incoming board president Gail Doering of Saratoga Springs.
“Naj has a certain genius for combining healing and the arts,” Doering said. “He created something important that fills a critical niche in our community.”
A SAFE GROUP
Creative Healing Connections began as a result of Wikoff’s experiences with three friends who were living with cancer in the 1990s.
Robyn Korpan, a widow and mother of three, had breast cancer.
“She would take any experimental program for bone-marrow transplant, anything that gave her a chance to live longer. She wanted to live as long as she could to give her children the best possible start she could before she died,” Wikoff said.
As Korpan’s illness progressed, she made sure Wikoff knew she was still the same person.
“She let me know how important it was to have a safe group of people to talk to about her anger, black humor, anything; she could just express herself,” he said.
PLACE TO RETREAT
Wendy O’Neal was an environmentalist.
“For her, nature was so important, to be outside, no matter how sick she was. She and I had a little victory garden together. She had these times she just got together with women. One March, her house was surrounded by women standing arm in arm singing to her,” Wikoff said.