IN FEBRUARY 2015, Dave Norris was diagnosed with cancer. The tumor in his stomach had grown to the point of obstructing his esophagus, making solid food impossible and liquids difficult. A biopsy showed malignant cells spreading through his abdominal cavity and the doctors gave him four to six months. He embarked on an aggressive chemotherapy regimen, flying first to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston every two weeks for six months to receive intravenous chemo, radiation therapy and handfuls of cancer-fighting meds, followed by two months of more of the same at Florida Cancer Specialists closer to home. It was a grim time, Norris recalls, and it was cold.

Some clinics, such as the one in MD Anderson, come equipped with blanket warmers to help patients stave off the chill, but more than 50 Florida Cancer Specialists offices do not. So when Norris beat the odds, and after 11 months when all of the biopsies came back negative and declared him disease-free, he resolved to do something about it—he started a campaign through his Make A Difference Foundation to raise $250,000 to put blanket-warming machines in every Florida Cancer Specialists office across the state. A warm blanket may seem a small thing, but to someone losing body mass and drinking 60 ounces of cold barium to shiver through a c-scan in a thin hospital gown, even a modicum of relief is welcome. “It means the world,” says Norris. “You’re chilled to the bone.” But more than just creature comfort, this kind of warmth can have real substantive impacts on patients fighting cancer, says Dr. Miguel Pelayo, Jr., a hematologist and oncologist with Florida Cancer Specialists and cancer survivor himself. “It may seem simple, but it’s actually very meaningful,” he says. Physicians more and more uncover connections between a positive mental state and a robust fight that leads to a successful recovery, and for Pelayo this should not be understated. He often finds himself in the position of coach as much as doctor, encouraging his patients to be active, to eat, to keep trying. Some, like Norris, have that drive from the very beginning. Others need a push and a helping hand, or a warm blanket. “It’s huge,” Pelayo says. “More than what’s spoken about.”

Experienced philanthropists through their Inmate Ministry Foundation, Norris and his wife Bobbie have rebranded the organization as the Make A Difference Foundation as an umbrella for their philanthropic endeavors. Kicking off the campaign in December 2016 with the donation of a blanket-warming machine to the Florida Cancer Specialists office in Lakewood Ranch, Norris takes a two-pronged approach to bringing investors onboard to complete the campaign, identifying both large corporations with a presence across all of Florida Cancer Specialists’ range that could sponsor a blanket warmer and smaller regional companies looking to become more invested in their community. And in conjunction with a crowdfunding campaign for individual donations, the prospects look promising.

With 55 of the 100 Florida Cancer Specialists locations in the state not currently equipped with a blanket warmer for its patients, a successful campaign would represent a “significant jump” in patient care, according to Florida Cancer Specialists CEO Bradley Prechtl. As the largest private oncology practice in the country, it is projected that Florida Cancer Specialists offices across the state will see 60,000 new patients this year and handle at least one million visits. “And for a certain number of patients, a blanket is all they’re looking for,” says Prechtl, noting that a large percentage of Florida Cancer Specialists’ patients fall into the older age bracket, already frailer than they once were. “They’re the ones who will see the most benefit.”

It has a heartening effect for the physicians and administrators at Florida Cancer Specialists as well, knowing they are not fighting alone. “I’m beyond humbled,” says Pelayo, upon hearing of Norris’ plans. “This was not a goal, but it’s refreshing to hear about. This is exactly why we should be here fighting and helping people out.” Prechtl echoes these sentiments as he watches the circle complete: “It means our staff and physicians are doing something right, that because of the incredible care he received, [Norris] wants to help patients as well. It’s inspiring.”

For Norris, the effort is part of a bigger change he’s making in his life to appreciate those around him. It’s the same shift that now drives him to approach the woman in his church who reads every Sunday and thank her for her contribution and letting her know he appreciates her instead of sitting silently. “As soon as I knew I had a longer horizon,” he says, “I wanted to give back and make a difference.”