May Challenge: A is for Awareness

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

For two years I had the pleasure to be a reporter at The Reporter in Lansdale. Day in and day out I was able to meet individuals and groups - ultimately being their voice and writing what they wish to have heard in the community. Their words were dictated through my hands where I would rapidly type on my key board producing lengthy feature stories (even if it wasn't a feature I always made it too long, right Aixa and Dan Sharer??) I covered plenty of accidents, fires and heroes coming home from overseas, but one of my favorite aspects of the jobs was meeting groups of individuals who are apart of an organization trying to build awareness.

Over 24 months I became educated on foundations and charities that I never knew even existed, just like I'm sure many of you are unaware of until after you read this post. Here are two that you should have awareness on.

Dolan Fund: The Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund advocates for families with seriously ill, physically and cognitively challenged, or severely injured children nationwide through information and education. Financial assistance for needs not covered by insurance is provided to families whose children are living in or cared for in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or Delaware. At the Ambler Running Club's Frostbite 5-miler in 2012, I had the opportunity to meet Kelly Dolan's mother - the Dolan Fund was one of the charities benefiting from the event. At the race I talked with her mother, listening to her heart breaking story of the struggle her family went through with a sick child, and on top of that the family struggle of affording medical visits and bills. During hospital visits the Dolan's met other families and learned of their hardships of losing jobs from having to take off too much time, not being able to  pay utilities and unable to pay parking fees at the hospital. After the passing of their daughter Kelly, the Dolan's created this fund for other families in need. I introduce you to this foundation in hopes that maybe if you run a race or your school is in need of a charity, you learn how you can touch the lives of thousands of sick kids within our area. Here is my story from the 5-miler. 

Toussaint&Chicchi Families: In May of 2012 I had the pleasure to meet and interview the Toussaint and Chicchi families of Lansdale. They were brought together by fate -- having both families grow up together through happiness and loss. Both with three children, the two families suffered a terrible lose - both losing a little girl at a young age due to illness. Both families leaned on each other as they traveled to and from CHOP - towing their sick child as well as the healthy toddlers. Both families struggled to keep their healthy children entertained, while also providing support to their needs as they were going through the hardship of a sibling being ill. As both families supported each other with the loss of losing a child, the two families joined forces to create a program at CHOP that would offer sibling assistance to well children. Tricia and Joe Toussaint learned before Adelaide’s passing about a family in Wisconsin who had started a sibling care center in their hospital in honor of their son who had passed away. This is a place in which siblings could receive proper care and support from a licensed professional, away from their parents, as they are surrounded by a wide range of feelings, just as their parents are experiencing. “I found that lots of other hospitals provided this type of space within their hospital and I was just shocked that the number one hospital in the country did not,” said Tricia Toussaint. This is what sparked the Sibling Care Program at CHOP. The Toussaints are hopeful of creating a designated space at CHOP in which well children can get proper care. After the passing of Jenna, the Chicchi’s joined forces, fundraising to implement this type of program at CHOP, but also in memory of their daughter Jenna. The Chicchi’s created a donation page called “Jenna’s Hope” and the Toussaint’s have a page “Adelaide’s Place,” both located on the CHOP website. While both raise money separately, all funds from both families go into the Sibling Care Program. During the summer of 2008 a sibling care center was on the blueprint, with planning of it being incorporated into a new building CHOP was about to put into construction. However, with a tough economy, plans had to be put on hold. Both families helped work on an alternative for the sibling care program, in which a proposal to the board of supervisors at CHOP was asked to bring in a child life therapist to assist well children. Primary responsibility would be to hold conversation and designed activities for the children. Currently there is only one child life therapist available at CHOP for well children. This person is only located on the intensive care unit floor. This position is fully funded by the fundraising efforts of the Chicchi and Toussaint families. Since 2007, the Lansdale families have raised more than $100,000 from local events, including community birthday parties in honor of their daughters and their annual Golfing for Angels Golf Outing. For their full story click here.

These two families blew me away, making me aware to an issue I could have never imagined. I hope after reading their story it touches you as much as it did for me.

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