When a child is diagnosed with a serious illness the entire family is impacted. Roles and responsibilities change, routines are altered and new demands are placed on each member.
And while the family is learning to adjust to these disruptions they’re also carrying an overwhelming emotional weight.
But when faced with such a hardship an astonishing thing happens – families grow closer and grow stronger. And the members of their community who rally to support them quickly become part of the family.
Kelly Carpenter has witnessed this first hand. A former elementary and high school teacher, Kelly recently made a career change when she joined the Children’s Cancer Center as a Support Coordinator. In her role, she helps manage 24 programs and services that support more than 900 families.
The Children’s Cancer Center (CCC) in Tampa, Florida is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving families of children who have cancer or chronic blood disorders with the emotional, financial and educational support necessary to cope with their life-threatening illness.
“The philosophy of our original founders was that when a child is diagnosed, the entire family is actually diagnosed because everyone, not only the patient, is impacted” says Kelly. “So our programs and services address the needs of the entire family.”
And the first program that Kelly experienced when she joined the CCC was a Family Fun Day that was organized and hosted in partnership with Foresters Financial™.
“I had no idea what to expect,” said Kelly. “It was rewarding to see an organization not only giving back but also bringing volunteers – Foresters did everything!”
No doubt about it, Foresters definitely brought the party! The day included games, arts and crafts, face painting, food and live music. All the ingredients needed for a celebration.
But after I learned that the CCC offers families programs such as therapy, counseling, big buddy mentoring, financial assistance and tutoring, I couldn’t help but think that a Family Fun Day seemed kind of frivolous.
Did the event really make a meaningful impact in the lives of the families?
The short answer – yes.
“We have different group nights for families to get together, but they’re split among the illnesses being faced. Also, families are here all the time but it’s a revolving door and they’re always ‘go, go, go’ – they don’t have time to stop and talk,” Kelly explained.
“But at the Family Fun Day, no matter what illness they were facing everyone was together, which was really nice to see. The event gave them the opportunity to stop, relax and connect.”
It’s clear that the Family Fun Day is much more than a party. It gives families an opportunity to unwind and build friendships with other families going through the same difficult experience. It also enables them to make real and lasting connections with volunteers and the CCC staff – their community who has rallied to support them in their time of need.
Sometimes it’s the simple things that mean the most. Kelly told me a story about a group of parents she spied playing the card game Rummy together in the multipurpose room during the Family Fun Day, tucked away from the commotion. They were laughing together, sharing stories and bonding over their shared experiences.
“I was in awe at how something so small and simple could do so much to bring people together,” said Kelly. “I thought, wow, this is what it’s all about!”
The activity really got Kelly thinking about the importance of bringing the families together, so now they put on Family Fun Day events quarterly. And Foresters will be returning to help out once again.
“I didn’t realize how much good there was in the world until I started working here,” said Kelly. “It’s through the help of the community and organizations like Foresters that we’re able to provide support to our kids and families.”
Read more feel-good stories from local communities:
414688 CAN/US/UK (01/17)