Raising Funds For Cancer Care Through Fitness

Denise Chakoian

As the owner of Providence’s CORE Cycle. Fitness. Lagree. studio, Denise Chakoian spends her days inspiring clients to reach their health and fitness goals. But what inspires her? The lifesaving treatment and compassionate care provided by the Lifespan Cancer Institute (LCI) at Rhode Island Hospital. 

Denise is dedicated to using her boutique fitness studio as a platform to raise funds for Rhode Island and Hasbro Children’s hospitals. She regularly hosts classes that directly benefit cancer treatment and research, including LCI. Over the years, her efforts have generated at least $50,000 for the hospitals. For Denise, who was recently appointed to the Rhode Island Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees,  this work is deeply personal.

She was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2018 at age 46. “My fitness level was so high that I didn’t notice the symptoms right away,” Denise says. “I felt tired, but I thought it was just from running around and working a lot.” 

After an initial CAT scan suggested it could be cancer, she sought treatment from LCI’s James Butera, MD, and underwent six months of chemotherapy. With the cancer now in remission, she continues to see Dr. Butera for follow-up care. 

Denise is grateful for the excellent treatment she continues to receive at the cancer institute and hopes to bring the patient perspective to her new role on the Board of Trustees. “I was honored to be asked,” she says. “I want to make a difference and one way to do it might be to share my experience as someone who continues to get services at Lifespan Cancer Institute.” 

And she plans to continue her work blending fitness with philanthropy. Last year, Denise was required to close her in-person fitness studio for several months due to state COVID-19 safety guidelines. But that challenge didn’t halt her fundraising efforts—it only increased them. In April 2020, Denise hosted a web-based class to raise money to help the hospital acquire tablets for Intensive Care Unit and end-of-life patients to communicate with loved ones. She also bought catered lunches for the hospital’s first responders at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“At that point, people had been working long hours and they just wanted a good meal, and that’s what they got,” she says. Denise also recently established the Chakoian Lymphoma Fund, which supports patient services, clinical trials, and other needs. She started it after unexpectedly receiving a $500 gift intended to help pay her fitness studio’s bills after its revenue fell during the pandemic. “As kind as that was, I just couldn’t use it for bills,” she says. “I wanted to do something meaningful with it, so I sent it to Rhode Island Hospital.” 

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