Childhood cancer takes toll on families as well, and here’s how you can help

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One of the great privileges of working for nonprofits like Tyler Robinson Foundation (TRF) and Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, both of which provide financial and emotional support to families tackling childhood cancer, is the people you meet. These parents, siblings, and extended family often find themselves in roles they never dreamed of, but their love for the patient is truly a master class in all of the virtues we prize: courage, selflessness and sacrifice. 

According to a recent NPR story, approximately “two-thirds of adults with health care debt who’ve had cancer themselves or in their family have cut spending on food, clothing, or other household basics.” This is why Jay Fund and Tyler Robinson Foundation are uniting in an effort to bring awareness to the issues affecting families battling pediatric cancer here and now. 

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and the economy has created the perfect storm for families facing the unthinkable. Everything has spiked from the price of gas and filling up our tanks to the cost of food to fill our refrigerators to the rising cost of housing. It all has parents of a child diagnosed with a life-threatening disease struggling to meet some of life’s most basic needs.  

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In addition to being a month dedicated to kids with cancer, September is also Hunger Action Month. The USDA estimates 33.8 million people live in food-insecure households, including 5 million children. It’s difficult to imagine anyone going hungry, but it is a stark reality for those who do and a struggle that is only impounded by the effects of caring for a child with cancer. 

In 2018, Sam Short was diagnosed with spinal cancer. As part of the Make A Wish Foundation, Sam wanted a chance to stand on the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island for a chance to earn the title United States Marine. From April 27-28, Short will complete a condensed boot camp alongwith a platoon of Marines in hopes of earning the honorary title of Marine. Short, who is 16 years-old, is from Columbus, Oh. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by CWO2 Bobby J. Yarbrough/Released)

In 2018, Sam Short was diagnosed with spinal cancer. As part of the Make A Wish Foundation, Sam wanted a chance to stand on the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island for a chance to earn the title United States Marine. From April 27-28, Short will complete a condensed boot camp alongwith a platoon of Marines in hopes of earning the honorary title of Marine. Short, who is 16 years-old, is from Columbus, Oh. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by CWO2 Bobby J. Yarbrough/Released)
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by CWO2 Bobby J. Yarbrough)

The Jay Fund saw a 52% increase in requests for financial need during the height of the pandemic, and once again, these numbers are on the rise. A mom with a child battling cancer told TRF, “I cook for my husband and my two boys every day. If there is anything left, then I will eat, otherwise, I will go hungry — a lot.”  Her family is now supported by TRF, which assigns a financial adviser to each grantee family, finding exactly how to help them stay afloat and become self-sufficient in the long run. 

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Another parent confessed the bleak reality of the emotional toll of this disease to the Jay Fund, saying, “Cancer has destroyed us. We are exhausted. Our confidence and our morale have been so down because of our 4-year-old fighting this terrible cancer.” The foundation is providing opportunities for this family to connect with others riding the same emotional roller coaster, offering positive support, and light-hearted moments to strengthen their family. 

Some of those moments occur in the kitchen, and thanks to the generous time and commitment of Tastemade’s Derrell Smith, Tyler Robinson Foundation, and Jay Fund are offering families wholesome recipes they can make together on a budget. Healthy, affordable meals are critical for all families, especially when you consider families are paying as much as an extra $460 more a month for food and fuel, with prices up a whopping 13.1%. When you are already struggling to meet your monthly expenses and your child has cancer, this increase can be financially paralyzing. 

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So, this September, we are asking each of you to do whatever your budget will allow. Make dinner for a family battling pediatric cancer. Deliver groceries to them. Participate in our gift card drives or make a donation to TRF, Jay Fund, or any organization that supports families coping with a pediatric cancer diagnosis, so they can focus on what matters: getting their child well. 

Kim Gradisher is the executive director of Tyler Robinson Foundation, co-founded by the Grammy-award winning band, Imagine Dragons. 

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