The American Cancer Society says that each year in the United States, an estimated 15,780 children between the ages of birth and 19 years are diagnosed with cancer. Approximately 1 in 285 children in the country will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday. On average, 200 children are diagnosed with cancer every week in the United States.
Because of major treatment advances in recent decades, 84 percent of children with cancer now survive for five years or more. Overall, this is a huge increase since the mid-1970s, when the five-year survival rate was about 58 percent. Still, survival rates can vary a great deal depending on the type of cancer and other factors.
After accidents, cancer is the second-leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14. About 1,190 children younger than 15 are expected to die from cancer in 2020.
The types of cancers that develop in children are often different from the types that develop in adults. Even when kids have a cancer type that adults get, too, it is often treated differently.
When an adolescent or young adult gets cancer, treatment can be challenging. At an age characterized by the beginnings of independence, the increased reliance on parents that accompanies a cancer diagnosis often complicates care.
Local Nonprofit Organizations Are Serving Children with Cancer and Their Families
Whether you’re looking for ways to understand a child’s cancer diagnosis, cope with treatment or have questions about living as a childhood cancer survivor, any of these four organizations can help.
The Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation supports families living in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties who have a child with cancer by providing financial, educational and emotional support. Its programs allow parents to focus on what matters most — their child’s well-being, during one of the most difficult times of their child’s young life.
“Childhood cancer affects the whole family, not just the child battling cancer,” interim Executive Director Eryn Shugart said. “We offer programs that allow parents to be supported and to know they are not alone. As a parent, you should never have to worry about the financial and emotional burden brought on by cancer.”
In the five months since the shelter-in-place orders began, many families that TBCF serves have been laid off, furloughed or have had their hours reduced, and several have contracted COVID-19 themselves. Because so many of the families that TBCF serves are employed in the service industry, they have been significantly affected.
Since the pandemic began, TBCF has provided 32 families with additional financial support, has gifted families thousands of dollars in grocery gift cards, delivered dozens of care packages and provided more emotional support than during any other year, virtually. This is all in addition to providing their three core programs of financial, educational and emotional support to families residing in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.
» American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society takes a comprehensive approach to supporting those affected by childhood cancer by funding research, advocating for government policies that improve access to quality care for all children, and providing trusted information, guidance and support for patients and their families.
Deb Jeffers, director of community development, said, “We’re working to answer the critical questions about childhood cancer: what causes it, how can it be detected and treated successfully, and how to improve the quality of life for patients, survivors and their families, when they’re getting care as a patient and growing up as a survivor. If your child is diagnosed with cancer, we offer free resources to help you every step of the way.”
Cancer doesn’t fight fair at any age, and it’s devastating when it occurs in children. But the future is hopeful. Through research, information, support and efforts to improve access to quality care, the American Cancer Society is working to make sure children with cancer not only survive but thrive.
Throughout the year, but especially during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, the American Cancer Society will join other advocates to raise awareness about childhood cancer and the ways people can work together to find the answers that will benefit every child with cancer and their family.
The BumbleBee Foundation was established in memory of Jarrne Donatini, who at age 4 passed away from a very rare form of liver cancer. During his 18-month battle with cancer, Jarren’s family was directly impacted with the overwhelming costs and emotional stress associated with caring for a pediatric cancer patient.
Jarren touched the lives of many, but the families who rallied around him and his family, providing love, faith and hope during a time of great need, left such a profound impact that his parents immediately knew they were called to start an organization that would offer this same attitude of love and support for all families suffering from pediatric cancer.
The BumbleBee Foundation’s mission is to inspire hope and faith by providing support to the overall well-being of pediatric cancer families. It accomplishes that through six programs that are highlighted on its website.
Cottage Children’s Medical Center provides extensive cancer treatment options for children. It offers personalized, attentive care and treats conditions such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia and bone and soft tissue cancers. The CCMC’s advanced treatment options include chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The multispecialty team approach includes pediatric oncologists and surgeons, certified oncology nurses, registered dietician and social workers.
In 2019, the CCMC treated more than 700 children for pediatric cancer. CCMC’s treatment program includes emotional support and financial resources for patients and families.
The CCMC has been collaborating with the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation since it was established in 2002. The Cottage pediatric oncology social worker works closely with families to identify financial, emotional and educational needs for children with a cancer diagnosis in the tri-counties. Additionally, the CCMC child life specialist program coordinates referrals to TBCF-sponsored programs such as support groups, holiday parties, last chemo parties, events and volunteer opportunities.
The Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Foundation sponsors the CCMC Family Assistance Fund. It provides support to families who experience financial hardship because of the illness and hospitalization of a child, helping with funds for basic needs such as food, transportation and rental assistance.
Robust Financial Contributions Help Treat Children with Cancer and Support Their Families
If the thought of children with cancer touches your heart, you can be part of the solution by making a financial donation to one of these organizations that serve the children as well as their families. They need your help more than ever — not only because the number of children with cancer is so large, but because so many fundraising events have been canceled because of the pandemic.
» Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation
On Sept. 1, the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation began its eighth annual Gold Ribbon Campaign in recognition of September’s National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
“The families we serve have needed more support than ever since the pandemic began. We are tremendously grateful to the businesses and individuals who are sponsoring our Gold Ribbon Campaign, and to those providing in-kind donations toward our silent auction,” Shugart said. “The cancellation of our largest fundraising event, the Gold Ribbon Luncheon, will create a significant budget shortfall. We are hopeful that more community members will consider donating, sponsoring, contributing towards our silent auction, or participating in our campaign activities so we will be able to meet the increased needs of these vulnerable families during this time.”
One of the elements of this year’s Gold Ribbon Campaign will be an online silent auction with an additional in-person preview event from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 26. Auction items may be viewed at 32auctions.com/TBCF2020 and at the preview event on Sept. 26.
» American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society will utilize Childhood Cancer Awareness Month to raise funds for pediatric cancer research, including promotion of its #GoldTogether program and St. Baldrick’s partnership, and to raise awareness of the partnerships it has to make an impact on childhood cancer.
#GoldTogether is a movement birthed from the vision and positive energy of pediatric brain cancer survivor and Relay for Life volunteer Cole Eicher. His dream is simple: Let’s work together to have a greater impact, more options and better outcomes for kids fighting cancer.
It has grown into a budding national movement with more than 125 #GoldTogether for childhood cancer teams created nationally in 2019 at Relay for Life events. All funds raised by these teams support childhood cancer research, support services and awareness, as well as cancer prevention efforts targeting children. #GoldTogether team locations will be added weekly to RelayForLife.org/goldtogether.
» BumbleBee Foundation
» Cottage Children’s Medical Center
Cottage also sponsors the Little Cottages, six studio apartments adjacent to the hospital, offering accommodations for families out of the area. Little Cottages are used by families of adult and pediatric patients, including children being treated for cancer. With increasing need from families for these accommodations, SBCH Foundation is working to create a new and expanded Hospitality House in the years ahead. Donations to this project are very welcome.
— Dr. Cynder Sinclair is a consultant to nonprofits and founder and CEO of Nonprofit Kinect. She has been successfully leading nonprofits for 30 years and holds a doctorate in organizational management. To read her blog, click here. To read her previous articles, click here. She can be contacted at 805.689.2137 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are her own.