In a place that can feel dark, Riya Shah is providing light. 

Shah walks around the Duke University Cancer Treatment Center with sunflower gift bags in hand, passing them out to patients who are receiving treatment for cancer. 

What You Need To Know

  • Riya Shah is a high school student in Wake County

  • Shah created her first sunshine bag in 2020

  • The bags are filled with self-care items and distributed to women fighting cancer

The high schooler calls them "Sunshine Bags." 

"I give chemotherapy patients care bags that will hopefully just brighten up their day, you know, be sunshine," Shah said. 

The bags are filled with seven self-care items, like lotion, fuzzy socks, a journal, candy, lip balm, a scarf and a book. 

So why the name sunshine? 

“Sunshine to me is something I think of when I think of happiness and the idea of there being that little ray of sunshine, that little ray of happiness in someone’s day coming from a care package. That’s what I want to be for other people," Shah said. 

Shah makes weekly deliveries to Duke's cancer treatment centers, passing out her bags to anyone who wants one. 

Courtney Latney is battling cancer and received one of Shah's Sunshine Bags. 

"To have someone acknowledge you in a time when things are kinda down, and you’re in that place, this really helps," Latney said. 

The idea behind Sunshine Bags came when her babysitter was diagnosed with cancer. At the time Shah was just 13. She took her birthday money and headed to a dollar store to pick out items for a care basket. 

"She actually struggled a lot with hair loss and the self-confidence that came along with it, I sort of didn’t think about it for a little while because I didn’t comprehend it when I was a little kid, but growing up in this world, you start to understand the importance of self-care and everything," Shah said. 

Aside from working her summer internship, the high schooler has put all her spare time into her mission, which has turned into a nonprofit organization. 

“We also collaborate for some small and local businesses, which is really great because I found this one company called The Soap and Shine and I thought they’d be perfect to work with us because we’re the same theme," Shah said. 

For Caroline Thaxton, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, it's the pick-me-up she needed. 

“Little gestures people make, bringing by food or something when I was going through chemo and didn't feel good, anything to brighten my day," said Thaxton. 

It's a simple act from a stranger that makes all the difference. To donate to Shah's Sunshine Bags, click here