Sunday, October 28, 2007

16 families, $12,000, 1 laptop, 1 week

Yes, you read that right. This past week, Heroes for Children provided 16 families with more than $12,000 for direct financial assistance as well shipped one laptop to a teenager receiving treatment at Cook Children's in Fort Worth. Let me tell you about a few of these families:

  • 11 year old boy with Germ Cell Carcinoma and a 6 year special needs brother. Living more than 45 minutes from Texas Children's Hospital, the family travels for treatment and incurs extra expenses due to the son's cancer. HFC will pay rent and utilities for November.
  • 10 year old girl on a ventilator. Her battle with her cancer has come to an end, and the social worker requested assistance towards the young lady's funeral as the parents made the difficult decision to come off the vent.
  • Grandmother raising five of her grandchildren with little involvement from the mother. Grandfather the sole breadwinner of the family, and one of the children battling cancer.
  • Six month old baby born with cancer that has lived in the hospital since she was born. Devastatingly sad.
  • Utility assistance for a family who has been in the cancer battle for more than FOUR years. The strain has become so difficult on the single mother of three and her lights were disconnected on Wednesday afternoon. Within less than six hours, Heroes for Children got them turned back on!

The stories continue. It is such an honor to continue to help families at this level. With the success of our fundraising events (such as our INCREDIBLE, fun, awesome Hold'Em for Heroes event last week--great job, Christi!!), support from individuals and corporations, and benefit events, Heroes for Children is able to provide the necessary relief that is lacking for so many of these families.

Thank you for being apart of this solution for us!

Monday, October 22, 2007

An Interview with Inspiration

Today I had the pleasure and honor of sitting down with Dr. Barbara Jones, current president of the Association of Pediatric Oncology Social Workers (APOSW) and Co-Director of the Institute for Grief, Loss and Family Survival in the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Jones teaches graduate classes including Loss and Grief: Individual, Family and Cultural Perspectives and Social Work in Health Care, has published numerous articles regarding chidhood cancer and palliative care, and is a member of several committees and boards including the LiveSTRONG Adolescent/Young Adult Alliance, Alliance for Childhood Cancer and Social Work Hospice/Palliative Care Network. She has devoted her professional life to researching and advocating for children with cancer and pediatric palliative care, grief and loss issues.

All this and she made time to sit down and inspire and motivate an exhausted and cranky graduate student!

In addition to picking her brain about current pediatric oncology social work opportunities and projects currently underway in Austin, I couldn't resist the opportunity to ask her a few questions with the Heroes for Children blog in mind. Always willing to help an organization devoted to the cause of childhood cancer, she graciously agreed to share her expert opinion with me.

What do you see as the most pressing concerns or issues facing pediatric oncology social work today?
Dr Jones: I think it's crucial for social workers to be present across the treatment continuum, to be part of the team alongside the healthcare professionals, from diagnosis through treatment and into survivorship. Social workers are currently employed to assist families during the crisis situation of treatment, but for patients who survive, and for those families whose child does not, support services are necessary to fully address ongoing psychosocial issues.

How can pediatric oncology social workers best assist families as they face childhood cancer?
Dr. Jones: Be quiet and listen! Sit with a child and be present, be their witness, and then be their advocate. But first, you have to listen to them.

What's new and exciting on the horizon in this field?
Dr. Jones: Well, first, we're doing a tremendous job. Right now the cure rate for childhood cancer is 80%, which means that there are roughly 270,000 childhood cancer survivors today. I think the challenge facing us right now is how do we as social workers help survivors incorporate this monumental experience into their lives as they move forward, an experience that certainly shapes their identity as they mature and grow. For example, one of the things I often hear from survivors is how grateful they are for their experience, which is not necessarily something you would automatically think of! So I think we need to address this aspect of childhood cancer - how do we assist survivors in the longterm as they assimilate their cancer experience into their lives?

If you had advice and/or requests for a nonprofit designed to help families facing childhood cancer, what would they be?
Dr. Jones: First, patients need financial support for the basic expenses of living. If a mother is in the hospital with her child, she's not going to be thinking about paying the electric bill. Often a parent will have to quit her job in order to take care of her child with cancer, and then you have the issue of childcare for other children in the house. So money for basic necessities is the first step.

Then, I think funding for support services after the child leaves the hospital is something that is desperately needed, but often not provided. A child might come back to the clinic once a year for a check-up, and does not have the free access to counseling and other resources that are provided by the hospital social worker during treatment. In particular, parents often encounter a lot of trauma after the fact, once the child is in remission and they finally have time to process that they almost lost their child. If we can get support services in place that are comprehensive and far reaching, that would be fantastic.

Thank you so much Dr. Jones for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to inspire, motivate and remind me why I'm working so hard.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Heroes Milestones

Heroes for Children has some exciting new programs in the process. One of them is inspired by my experience with my friend Kira.

If you remember back to my first blog about how I found Heroes for Children, I mentioned how my friends and I held a high-school graduation party for Kira, in her hospital room. She was diagnosed with leukemia about a month before graduation and began treatment right away. She missed graduation due to a hospital stay, but her Dad wore her gown and cap (proudly displaying Kira’s Dad on top of the mortar board). Her Dad accepted her diploma for her, while my mom was holding up her cell phone to the speakers so Kira could hear her name as it was called out. Before the ceremony, I highlighted a few names before Kira’s and reminded my mom (about a million times) to make sure she remembered to call Kira in time so she could here name being called. After graduation we set out to visit her in the hospital and give her a graduation party all her own!

Kira and her parents were so appreciative that we cared so much to bring graduation to her. Being able to make life as normal as possible for Kira was extremely important. If only for that one day we took her the graduation party, we could make her feel like a normal 18 year old girl, it was all worth it.

Remembering how grateful her parents were, I was inspired to create Heroes Milestones to plan parties for the families, who have children with cancer. Heroes Milestones is our new program to provide special parties for children with cancer. Working with the social workers, HFC volunteers, and other people from the various hospitals we will plan events for milestone events like, Quinceneras, First Communions, Bar Mitzvahs, Bat Mitzvahs, Celebrations of Life, etc.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Little Lilly

Here are a few new pictures of little Lilly!! I am working late the next two nights, but plan on getting over to the Linton house soon. Maybe I can take the siblings out to give mom and dad some Lilly time!!

Enjoy!! Aren't newborns the best?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Newest Addition to Heroes for Children

This afternoon, I got to hold the precious new addition to Heroes for Children--Lilly Anne Linton. Angel Taylor's fourth sibling was born yesterday afternoon, weighing in at just 6 lbs 1oz and a little over 18 inches long. Precious Lilly entered the world with the love of her parents and grandmother by her side. Not long after, she got her introduction to big sisters Tristyn and Tessa, and big brother Luke! Both mom and baby are doing great and adjusting to each other well. Let's see how Luke adjusts to having another baby in the house!

Ten toes, ten fingers, a beautiful face, a tiny body, and a perfect little nose. She is simply gorgeous. Not that I expected any less given how good looking her parents and siblings are! I couldn't be happier for my sweet friend.

Please join me in welcoming the newest Linton to the world!

Check the blog again soon--I hope to have pictures soon! And no--just because I held a sweet newborn does NOT mean I am ready to have another myself! I am perfectly content to cuddle this sweet one and give her back to her parents!

Congratulations Larissa, Kenny, Tristyn, Tessa, and Luke. How lucky Lilly is to have such a wonderful family to join.

Monday, October 1, 2007

October Volunteer of the Month

It's the beginning of the month, so it's time for our volunteer feature. The October Volunteer of the Month has been involved since the beginning of Heroes for Children, and since the beginning of Taylor's Angels. Serving as the Chairman of the Board for two years and currently as a Board Member, Randal Locke has been a dedicated member of our team. Currently, Randal is fundraising for the Golf-a-Thon day, putting his golf skills to work to play 50 holes in one day. To support his fundraising, please visit Randal's page HERE.

Randal--thank you so much for your love and dedication. I'm honored to know you and call you my friend.

Name, Age, Occupation:
Randal Locke, 42, Computer Consultant in the Help Desk Industry

How did you get involved with HFC?
I knew Taylor Anne Brewton who was my honored hero with Team in Training for my first marathon. She actually got sick again and passed during my tenure with TNT for my first marathon. It was my first real experience with children with cancer and its effect on the finances of the family. I got to know Larissa very well and joined the Board of Taylor’s Angels several years back and then we became Heroes for Children.

Do you have any kids and/or pets?
I have 1 Son Steven who is 34 and 4 dogs (Chester, Yvette, Sydney and Sheldon.)

From looking at you, no one would guess that…..
I can sing pretty well. Mostly country songs or wedding songs.

Favorite place to eat:
Hooters – Love the Wings and Fried Pickles…..

What’s on your book shelf?
Pictures, I read and watch movies.

What’s in your iPod/CD changer?
George Strait….and other country tunes

Who’s your hero?
As a kid my hero was my Terry Bradshaw, former quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I saw him always making the plays that made a difference in a game when it counted. Then after joining Heroes for Children, my hero changed. I now see that these kids that are dealing with cancer and all of the ups and downs associated with these dreadful diseases are truly Heroes. They fight day in and day out for that extra day, week, month, year of life. They keep a smile on their face, loving life and living in the moment, truly taking everything that they can from life itself. These kids are my new Heroes. Maybe someday, they can all just be kids, but, while there is cancer, there are Heroes. And while there are Heroes, there will be Heroes for Children there to lend a helping hand.