Noelle Kirchner, M.Div., is a Presbyterian minister and mother of two boys. As they wrestle on the floor, she enjoys wrestling with her manuscripts. She writes for Huff Post Parents, the TODAY Show Parenting Team, and has been a repeat guest author at in(courage). You can find her on her blog, where she writes about faith and parenting, and on Twitter and Facebook.
The magic of Easter isn't just the candy-filled memories. It isn't just the pitter-patter of little children discovering the thrill of their first egg hunt. It isn't just the family gatherings when spring is more than a coming season - it's in the air. Easter is special because it is the holiday that champions HOPE. Scripture says, "Death, where is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55) We worship Jesus, who overcame it. And he offers us that same hope not only beyond the grave, but in our everyday life.
I want to introduce you to Stefani Healey. She is the Vice President of the Brooke Healey Foundation, a foundation that Parents Magazine recently named as a Powered by Parents Top Charity. Even more, she's a mom like you and me. In fact, I met her in the preschool halls. But in the wake of the unthinkable, she is living and breathing hope to hurting families through her important work. I want you to know about it. What follows is my interview with her:
1. What is the name of your foundation, and why did you start it?
The name of our foundation is The Brooke Healey Foundation. It was started because our daughter, Brooke, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive brain cancer called DIPG, or Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. She was diagnosed in January of 2013 and passed away later that year, 6 days after her 5th birthday.
Stefani's daughter, Brooke
We were overwhelmed with generosity during Brooke's struggle and we knew that we would need to pay back others who had helped us. We also learned of, and met, so many children who are diagnosed with cancer. Some children have a great chance of recovery, and some, like Brooke's, need much more research in order to find a cure. We were unaware of the pediatric cancer world, for the most part, and probably didn't think about it further because it was scary, and we thought it could never happen to us. We are determined to raise awareness about pediatric cancers and specifically what help children and families need.
2. What strides has your foundation made, and what more needs to be done?
Our foundation is still new and growing, yet we have done wonderful things so far. We have helped children who have needed things like a new bed, air conditioning, and funding for medical treatments. We have given Broadway tickets, purchased adaptive equipment for kids, and donated to families to allow a parent to stay home from work and be with their child. Just as important, we are also funding research through a dedicated and specific group called the DIPG collaborative. This year, as a collective group of parent-run foundations, we have raised over $2,500,000.00 for the research of DIPG. In April, four of our board members will travel to a DIPG symposium with the leading doctors from around the world to learn more about the disease and to decide where this money will be spent. We will also participate in discussions that will shape how doctors, nurses and other medical caregivers can better serve these children.
There is much, much more to be done. There will be many kids diagnosed with cancer this year. 27,000 parents will hear the words, "Your child has cancer" this year alone. These children will need help in so many ways. It is unacceptable that only 4% of The National Cancer Institute's budget goes towards pediatric cancer research. These are the things that need to be changed. We are branching out with our fundraising each year, and we are looking for volunteers to help us grow further.
3. Finally, how can others help?
Others can help in many ways. Supporting a local family who is currently battling cancer by bringing them dinner. Speaking the name of a child who has died, so that they are never forgotten. Simple things like that help. There are also opportunities to create real change. Becoming a volunteer, committee member, or committing to be a board member for a charity is probably the best way that I can think to help. Our foundation, as is true with others, cannot survive without help from others. Finally, attending fundraising events or donating to a cause is vital. We need funding to create change and promote awareness. These children are too important to ignore.
Do you want to work for cancer justice on behalf of little ones? Please share this post and help spread the word!