December 31, 2021 – Giving really is better than receiving, and donors to CURE Childhood Cancer’s Holiday Angel know this all too well. Each year, CURE’s Savannah office works with social workers at Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital in Savannah and Nemours Children’s Specialty Care in Jacksonville to compile a list of families who have experienced financial difficulties as a result of the diagnosis. cancer in a child.
CURE recently announced that between these two hospitals, CURE has provided Holiday Angel gifts to 37 families in South Georgia and Lowcountry this year. These families have experienced heartbreak and emotional distress in the past 12 months.
One is a single mother of two whose 2-year-old daughter was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma in September 2020. only work if she could. The patient has undergone several courses of chemotherapy and MIBG radiation in preparation for a stem cell transplant. Scans from last week showed that even with this harsh treatment, the disease has progressed. The transplant is postponed and treatment is intensified again.
The 13-year-old daughter of another family was just diagnosed with lymphoma in early November. The past month has been overwhelming and filled with long clinic appointments, hospitalizations, and medication regimens, making it hard to think about the holidays.
Mandy Garola, CURE’s Vice President of South Georgia, knows this scenario all too well. “In 2008, my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia on November 13. A child’s cancer diagnosis is never easy, but coming before the holidays can be especially difficult. We were so focused on getting through each day caring for our daughter that Christmas crept up on us,” said Garola. “Three of my friends came to me asking what they could do for my family. Like many families who Faced with this situation I was hesitant to accept their help but they pushed through until I gave them a few gift ideas for each of my two children I can’t tell you what a blessing that act was to my family. Even now, 13 years later, it means so much to me that those ladies took the time to make sure my kids were taken care of for Christmas when I didn’t even think about it,” added Garola .
This act of looking after another family over the holidays is essentially what the CURE’s Holiday Angel program is all about. Once the social workers have shared the names of the patients they believe will benefit, the CURE staff will contact the patient’s parent or caregiver and receive a list of three wishes for each of the children in the family, along with any household needs. CURE employees then match each family with a donor who only shares the wish list and basic information. The donors shop for the family and often involve their children in the process as well.
Holiday Angel Donor, Jaime Miller, said: “I am honored and blessed to be able to bring joy to a family going through such a scary and difficult time. My mother, my two girls and I are doing this together. I tell my girls always I wish someone would do this for us if we were in this situation. The girls love to choose gifts for the kids and we pray for the family during the holidays.”
After donor gifts are collected, they are sorted, labeled and stored in giant Christmas bags to keep little eyes from peeking. Students from CURE Crew, CURE’s Teen Council, then deliver the gifts to families in the area. The recipients have no idea who the giver is who provided the gifts and can use them for their children during the holidays as they see fit. It really is a win for everyone involved. That becomes clear when you hear the comments of the families.
Upon receiving the gifts, one mother shared: “I am overwhelmed with the gifts for our family. It is above and beyond. Thank you just feels insufficient. The act brought me to tears. We all have our support networks that help us cope with the everyday things to deal with but these gifts are different because they come from people who don’t know us or our story When a total stranger cares about us my heart melts I truly believe that kindness and caring hearts can change the world .”
Another mother said: “Thank you so much to whoever was responsible for all this! When our daughter is done with this, we want to be part of CURE’s Holiday Angel program. I would love to make someone else feel the way I feel right now.”