There are some aspects of life that we’ll never fully comprehend, and children getting cancer is chief among them. Cancer is a debilitating, heart-wrenching disease—even for adults. But when it attacks the young and most vulnerable among us, the impact is especially devastating.
Fortunately, there are charities and philanthropic organizations, as well as government programs and agencies, that are committed to leveraging funds to fight the ugly truths of cancer head-on. Not so fortunate, however—at least for parents of young cancer victims and those specifically interested in fighting childhood cancers—is how little funding is actually allocated for pediatric cancer.
These facts, taken from The Truth 365, a grassroots documentary and social media campaign committed to raising awareness and money for pediatric cancer are particularly sobering:
The average cost of a stay in a hospital for a child with cancer is $40,000 per stay.
On average, pediatric hospitalizations for cancer cost almost five times as much as hospitalizations for other pediatric conditions.
For 2014, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) budget [was] $4.9 billion. It [was] anticipated that childhood cancer [would] receive 4% of that sum or $195 million.
Prostate cancer (patient average age at diagnosis, 66 years), receives more research funding from NCI than all childhood cancers (patient average age at diagnosis, 6 years).
The good news is that the fight against pediatric cancer is not over, and everyday people still have an incredible opportunity to make a difference. One of the best ways to do so is by supporting charities that expressly fund pediatric cancer research and support. Here are six that are deserve your money now.
Walk-a-thons are so 20 years ago, which is why THON, the world’s largest student run philanthropic organization, hosts an annual dance marathon to raise money for research, awareness and assistance related to pediatric cancer. Last year, THON raised $13 million, and because the organization is led completely by student volunteers, 96% of those funds went directly to Four Diamonds at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, THON’s sole beneficiary.
According to THON’s website, “Four Diamonds picks up where insurance leaves off, enabling families to solely focus on care for their child. Assistance from Four Diamonds ensures counselors, social workers, music therapists and other specialists are available to provide comprehensive care in a family-focused atmosphere. Thanks to THON, Four Diamonds and the Penn State Hershey Medical Center recruits world-class talent to continue innovative research benefiting children worldwide.”
We know that, medically speaking, cancer has a tremendous impact on the physical lives of children. What we often forget, however, is the emotional and psychological toll the disease takes. “While doctors focus on treating the disease, Children’s Oncology Services, Inc., exists to combat the devastating side effects of a pediatric cancer diagnosis that are often left untreated, including fear, isolation, depression and the loss of independence,” says Jeff Infusino, the organization’s president.
This is accomplished through a series of One Step Programs like overnight camps, ski getaways in the Utah mountains, and educational excursions to Washington DC. All are designed to help cancer patients focus on life as a survivor—not as a victim. “Our programs offer fun, friendship and support in a safe and nurturing environment,” Infusino adds. “We exist to heal scars that no one can see, and through community, support and shared experiences with peers, we deliver happy, pain free medicine called ‘camp.’”
If you’re looking for a charity with lean operations and a dedicated focus on mission-related spending, CURE Childhood Cancer is your solution. Executive director Kristin Connor is a mother of a childhood cancer survivor, and she is committed to running the organization in the most responsible way possible to have the greatest impact possible.
With an annual $4.7 million dollar budget, CURE allocates the following: 48% to research, 39% to patient and family services (including emergency financial assistance; transportation assistance; meals delivered to hospitalized children and their families; and survivorship and bereavement support), 8% administration and 5% to fundraising costs. Additionally, for 2015-2016, CURE announced $2.5 million in pediatric grants and fellowships, funding 19 different initiatives at 6 top pediatric cancer centers. Charity Navigator, America’s premier evaluator for sound fiscal nonprofit management, has awarded CURE Childhood Cancer a perfect four-star rating year over year.
There’s no way around it—a cancer diagnosis can financially devastate a family almost immediately. And while insurance often covers at least a portion of medical expenses, it is the other, day-to-day family needs that are often left unaddressed. Enter the Family Reach Foundation, which partners with hospitals across the country to step in and directly pay a family’s utility bills, groceries, car payments, mortgage and other expenses. “When a family receives a cancer diagnosis, they’re assigned a social worker to guide them through the emotional and financial burdens throughout their treatment journey,” says Carla Tardiff, Family Reach’s executive director. “Social workers alert us to families facing serious financial devastation. Then, Family Reach pays the bills directly—so parents can keep their focus on their children and not have to worry about taking time away from them.”
Recently, Family Reach launched a pediatric cancer crowdfunding app called Family Reach Give, to enable individual across the country to help families in need. The app features families, along with photos, background stories and a list of the bills that are outstanding due to costly—but life-saving—medical treatments. Users can donate a portion, or the total sum, to a bill of their choice; along the way they earn “karma” points for their good deed, and more points leads to matched donations from corporate sponsors. Unlike other crowdfunding sites, families on the app are never charged fees to be featured, nor do they pay taxes on the donations they receive.
When most families learn that their child has cancer, they are completely clueless regarding most of the details of the diagnosis, treatment and (hopeful) survival. And in many cases, they are handed a book published by Childhood Cancer Guides that will literally help guide them on their journey. Examples of guides include Childhood Leukemia, 4th ed.; Childhood Cancer Survivors, 3rd ed.; Childhood Brain & Spinal Cord Tumors, 2nd ed.; Childhood Cancer, 2nd ed.; and Your Child in the Hospital, 3rd ed.
“Every penny donated to our organization or obtained through sales of books goes to updating, publishing and distributing new editions,” says Childhood Cancer Guides co-founder Nancy Keene. “We have one part-time employee (in lean years, she volunteers) and hundreds of volunteers. More than 450 parents, kids with cancer and their siblings donate stories for our books, and more than 170 renowned professionals review our books to ensure accuracy.”