Illness is never part of any family’s plans, but many families navigate deadly illnesses with determination, fortitude, and some help from support organizations. In Northeast Ohio, we have strong support from our mainstays at Akron Children’s Hospital, Cleveland Clinic Children’s, and University Hospitals Childhood Cancer Care. In addition to these flagship operations, the region boasts some organizations that take support to the next level.
Helping Kids and Families Deal with Cancer
The Littlest Heroes, based in Solon, helps address the economic, emotional and social concerns of kids living with cancer. One unique way it does this is through the Art for Children’s Sake program, which gives kids access to certified art therapists, provides them opportunities to express their feelings through art, and lets them participate in art shows. Since 2001, the group has helped more than 1,000 families in Northeast Ohio. Support this local resource by making a monetary contribution, or consider taking part in its annual Adopt-A-Family program during the holiday season.
Making Magic for Kids
Make-A-Wish of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana grants wishes for children who are battling life-threatening illness, and its work is powerful. Logan, a local teenager, wished to have a boat; Make-A-Wish brought that wish to life. Now, the 18-year-old is fighting his illness while starting a degree program at the University of Akron, aiming to become a doctor himself. Make-A-Wish relies on monetary donations in order to grant wishes, but there are many ways to support them: donate miles from your frequent flier program to help get kids to the destination of their wish (wishes often involve travel), or become a volunteer (its workforce is made of 97 percent volunteers), or join other supporters at the upcoming Annual Walk for Wishes at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
Fighting for a Cure
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation funds childhood cancer research in a strategic way, providing funding that targets the gaps in current research in an effort to develop a cure as rapidly as possible. In Ohio, the group has funded 31 childhood cancer studies. It also understands that when a child is diagnosed with cancer, it impacts the whole family in various ways. That’s why it has the SuperSibs Program, supporting the siblings of cancer patients. It also offers help to families by providing funding needed to travel to and from treatment centers through the Travel for Care program.
In the six years since Blaze Keim, 9, was diagnosed with cancer, his family has enjoyed support through this program, helping make it possible for him to get to an array of treatments. Today, Blaze is doing well; his cancer has been in remission for nearly a full year.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is funded by donations and fundraisers. If your family would like to contribute, consider having a lemonade stand of your own to help cure childhood cancer, like founder Alex did.
Caring for the Whole Family
The Gathering Place offers comprehensive support services — free of charge — for children, teens and adults who are impacted by a cancer diagnosis. It offers weekly support meetings in Beachwood and Westlake that range from developing vocabulary so kids can talk about the challenge to normalizing each family’s experience. It offers stress coping strategies by using art, music, horticulture and technology to guide participants on their individual and family journeys. These skills help families deal with the challenges that a cancer journey brings, even when that journey ends in the loss of a loved one. The Gathering Place is 100 percent privately funded and the group needs volunteers, monetary donations and contributions to its lending library.
When asked for a favorite element of the work, Casey Durkin, director of children and family programs, says, “I think my favorite is watching families at the end of each group night, walking out together engaged with one another.”