After her daughter died at age 34, Linda Halsey created the Caleb’s Feet Foundation in the hopes that others would be spared her pain.
The organization has nothing to do with feet — it strives to increase awareness of cervical cancer. It bears that name because Halsey’s daughter, Cheryl Janee Parris, owned and operated a performing arts organization called Caleb’s Feet. Today, the foundation sponsors the Cheryl Janee Parris Performing Arts Scholarship, granting an annual partial scholarship so a student can attend a local community dance school.
It was only when cervical cancer touched her family’s life that Halsey learned about this horrible disease.
“There’s a lot of information about other types of cancer,” she says, but not this one. It’s been Halsey’s mission to change that by bringing the disease out in the open through speaking engagements, community events, and with the distribution of literature.
Halsey speaks extensively about the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), a vaccine that did not exist when her daughter was a teenager — but is available now for both girls and boys.
“Parents, caregivers, grandparents, aunts, and uncles should be informed of the cancer-saving vaccine that can impact our children’s lives,” she says. “Brooklyn has a 36 percent vaccination rate for HPV, which is the fourth lowest of the five boroughs, according to the NYC Community Health Profiles 2015.”
This statistic is based on girls, ages 13 to 17, she said.
“Many think that it is all about the girls, but this is all inclusive, both male and females should be vaccinated.”
The Woman of Distinction pushes back against the reluctance of some parents who refuse to vaccinate by bringing her 16-year-old grandson to speaking engagements.
“He can provide his firsthand account because he was vaccinated at the age of 13,” she says.
Yet, there is often disinterest from those in the community, Halsey says. Perhaps it is a topic parents don’t want to face.
“I have been told, ‘My child is going to remain a virgin until she marries’ as a reason for not having her vaccinated,” she says. “The reality to that statement is that we can’t speak for the person they may be marrying. Protection is the key.” She encourages all women to be tested for cervical cancer.
Halsey earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Certification in Nonprofit Management in May 2012, but says, “I had no idea that, less than two years later, I would be heading a nonprofit organization.”
She grew up Virginia, and moved to Brooklyn in 1976. She lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant for 35 years, before relocating to Canarsie to become her daughter’s caregiver. She still lives in Canarsie today, where she raises her grandson.
Serving on Caleb’s Feet Foundation is Dr. Constantine Gorelick, a renowned member of New York Methodist Hospital’s gynecologic oncology team who met Halsey after her daughter was diagnosed with inoperable cervical cancer.
“This tragedy touched her family, took her only child, and left her grandson motherless, but it did not stop her from thinking about sharing her story with others,” he says.
Occupation: Chief executive officer and president.
Company: Caleb’s Feet Foundation, Inc.
Claim to Fame: Turning a horrific experience into something positive from which others can benefit.
Favorite Brooklyn Place: Canarsie Piers because of the solitude and peace I receive there. This is where my grandson and I go to release balloons for his mother and his older brother, who was stillborn at birth.
Woman you admire and why: My mother, Thelma Halsey, because during her six-month battle with breast cancer, she never complained.
Motto: When handed lemons, make lemonade.