Skip to main content

Davis Journal

Bringing hope to families battling cancer

Feb 22, 2024 10:57AM ● By Becky Ginos
Hopebox cast members from left to right: Ellie Stephenson, Garrett Stephenson, Andrew J. Cole and Kali Garrett at the awards ceremony. Photo by Becky Ginos

Hopebox cast members from left to right: Ellie Stephenson, Garrett Stephenson, Andrew J. Cole and Kali Garrett at the awards ceremony. Photo by Becky Ginos

LAYTON—Cast members, community members, friends and family joined together last week at the Davis Conference Center as Jan Williams, co-founder of the Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville was honored as the Davis Chamber Women in Business 2024 Athena Award recipient. The theater’s mission is “Bringing hope to families battling cancer through the performing arts.”

Williams is no stranger to cancer having battled it herself four times. The theater was born out of her own experience of finding hope in the lowest points of her life and a desire to lift someone else who is going through the same thing.

One evening when Williams had been going through a particularly tough treatment a knock came at her door. When she opened it there were several of her former performing group students who started singing her favorite songs. “It filled me with so much hope,” she said. “I went to bed that night and couldn’t sleep. I thought, ‘what am I going to do with this?’ I had a little notebook that was on a table by the side of my bed and I just started jotting down these ideas.”

Williams said she thought if this helped her so much, she needed to find a way to give that feeling to someone else. “That’s when Hopebox was formed. In my bed with a little small piece of paper.”

She had always been involved in dancing, music and theater so she came up with the idea of nominating people in the community who are battling cancer. “They would become our welfare recipients and our welfare recipients would be incorporated into all of our shows.”

Curtis Dalton, owner and co-founder of Hopebox saw William’s vision and jumped on board. “My daughter was in Jan’s child theater group,” said Dalton. “She was 7 or 8 years old and we got to know Jan. When she was fighting cancer for the third time she had to bring the theater academy to a close.”

Dalton said his daughter was one of the kids who sang on her porch. “She stumbled into me at Home Depot in Layton. We didn’t know each other well. She said ‘I’m so glad I found you. I found an old building in Kaysville (for a theater).’ I’m a home builder so she asked me to come over.”

Jan’s idea really resonated, he said. “I lost my mother to cancer. It was devastating to lose my mom. Watching her pass away was so hard.” 

Dalton told Jan he was in. “We’ve had our ups and downs but it’s been fun. Jan is a good woman. God has preserved her for a purpose.”

“It’s cool,” said Garrett Stephenson, a cast member. “We all submit names and hope they’ll be nominated (as a recipient). They’re introduced to the cast. It gives our performance purpose. When we’re tired and don’t want to rehearse we remember we’re doing it for this person.”

It’s awesome helping people in the community, he said. “They’re from all different walks of life. It doesn’t matter who you are, Jan is just willing to help.”

Nate Spackman has been acting at Hopebox since 2015. “I got to know her (Jan) and when I walked into Hopebox I thought it was a cool place,” he said. “She loves, loves, loves musical theater. The only thing that made her feel good (while she was sick) was watching a show.”

This theater is her baby, Spackman said. “It’s like one of her kids. She took me under her wing as a youth and I’m grateful to her that I get to do community shows.”

The idea is awesome, he said. “I think it’s so amazing. No one thinks they’re better than the other actors. We’re working for a common purpose that is bigger than you.”