As the month of September, and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, draws to a close (goodness, this year is whizzing by, isn’t it?), I wanted to wrap it up with ten ideas on how we can help families who are facing Cancer. Because, as Angela mentioned in her post, while it may be one member of the family who has to endure the treatment, Cancer happens to the whole family and it’s important to recognise the challenges each person goes through on this journey.
So, what can we do to make a difference? While there are amazing individuals out there trying to find a cure for Cancer, not all of us have those skills. So let’s try and keep it simple and think of one thing we can do over the next 12 months to help out.
- Collect toys and gifts for the kids in hospital.
Soon after Sam was diagnosed, he started ‘SuperSam’s Surprise Box’ and, with the help of our kindergarten community, family and friends, we collected about 10 bags of small gifts for children undergoing treatment in the Oncology department at the Children’s Hospital. This year, Sam asked our whole school community to help and we filled the whole back of our 4WD with gifts and toys! It was such a simple and easy way for each family in our community to contribute, and yet has provided maximum impact – enabling many of the kids at the hospital a little treat along the way when they have to undergo procedures.
Here are the guidelines for donating stuff for the kids at our Children’s Hospital. Have a look to see whether your local hospital has similar information so you know the best way to approach it before you start your collection.
Perhaps you could put a box at your workplace and ask colleagues to donate small gifts, or start a SuperSam’s Surprise Box in your classroom? I’m sure the hospital will appreciate it any time of the year, and the kids will too!
- Gather friends for a meal.
Each August/September, Camp Quality runs ‘Dine At Mine’ – whereby those registered host a meal at their house and all the guests pay to come along, then the proceeds are donated to Camp Quality. Whether it be a casual barbecue dinner or gourmet lunch with friends, you can choose the style of event that best suits your lifestyle, preference and budget.
Or if baking is more your thing, why not hold a morning tea? Australia’s Biggest Morning tea is held each year in May or June to raise money for the Cancer Council.
What a great excuse to catch up with friends AND help kids with Cancer in the process!
- Are you a sporty spice? Dedicate your next run to charity!
If you’re a runner or like getting involved in sporting events, check whether you can also raise money for a childhood cancer charity in the process. Most organised runs these days have a particular charity as beneficiary by default, but you can often opt to raise money for a your charity of choice through websites such as Everyday Hero or GoFundraise.
In early 2013, Ben and I put the word out that we were going to run in the Twilight Run in March – my first ever fun run! What started as the two of us and our sister-in-law in ‘Team Love’ turned into 73 people (including family, friends, colleagues and even teachers from Sam’s school) joining us for the fun run and collectively raising almost $8,000 for the Cure Cancer Foundation. We were so overwhelmed by the love and support shown that day, especially given it took next to no organising on our part. It goes to show that “from little things, big things grow.”
- Buying a gift? Make a purchase from an organisation who shares the proceeds with a Children’s Cancer charity.
I’ve no doubt there are many companies who have products that directly help families in need, but I just thought I’d make a mention of two in particular:
These little guys are pretty cute. Our boys have been lucky enough to receive three bears who were donated to the hospital, so we now have Orlando Pirate, Omega Sleepy Bear and Chris the Cyclist living at our house. Each bear is individually boxed and comes with a personalised adoption card. You can either buy one to be donated to the hospital, or buy as a gift for someone you love (or yourself!) – either way you’ll be helping the Kids Cancer Project and contributing to one of Australia’s largest funders of research into children’s cancer.
I recently stumbled across this business called Popsicle & Co. selling gorgeous ‘Brave’ t-shirts (especially in gold throughout September, but other Brave shirts and hats are always available) and donating $10 from each sale of Brave items to the Leukaemia & Cancer Research Foundation in WA. (How cute are these Sidekick t-shirts??)
Do you know of any businesses who sell products and support a children’s cancer charity in the process? I’d love to hear about them, so email me the details!
- If you’re going to embarrass yourself, you may as well do it publicly and help those who need it!
Got a cute photo of yourself as a child? How much would your Mum love a photo of her unique child on her coffee mug?? If you’d love to embarrass yourself on social media (all for a good cause!), head on over to #iwasauniquechild and in two minutes you can create some personalised merchandise using one of your childhood photos. Your embarrassing photo can help the Childrens Cancer Institute Australia work on a Personalised Medicine Program for each unique child facing cancer.
- Be brave and shave
I will never forget the day one of my beautiful friends, her husband and son all cut off their locks in the Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave. It was a few years before our Sam was diagnosed, but I just remember thinking how incredibly brave they were for making such a public display of support. Obviously these days, it’s even closer to our hearts and we appreciate all the funds raised on behalf of the Leukaemia Foundation.
The ‘shave for a cure’ is run in March each year. Last year, we were very proud of our school community and the 10 teachers and students who had their heads shaved at a school assembly. In conjunction with raffles and donations at the ‘Crazy Hair Day’, the school raised about $8,000. In 2015, our school completely outdid themselves with 30 of the children choosing to shave their heads and raising nearly $30,000, which was an incredible effort. I had to fight back the tears on assembly that day!
If you’re not feeling brave enough to do the full shave, what about shaving off a moustache… or waxing your chest?? (or maybe you’d just rather shave your head) For something less permanent, you could always colour your hair for the day or ask if you can hold a crazy hair day at your school or kindergarten.
- Maybe it’s time to give up a treat
Okay, sure, maybe this one isn’t quite as fun but I think there’s an important lesson in Red Kite’s ‘Trade a Treat’ campaign. Most of us could begin to imagine what young people with Cancer and their families have to give up while they are going through Cancer treatment. And for all the things you think of, there are probably many more that these families have to forgo for financial reasons, for the safety and health of their child, because they have to be in hospital, or for a multitude of other reasons. They often miss out on parties or outings, or even school and just being able to socialise with their friends. I know one of the hardest things for Sam while he was going through intensive chemotherapy was staying away from public pools, due to the risk of infection.
So, do you think you could live without a treat in your life for a whole week and donate the savings to Red Kit? Chocolate? Coffee? A night out? Okay, maybe not coffee 😉 Give up something small to make a big difference in the lives of families facing Cancer.
- Have some household items you can sell? Clear stuff + donate proceeds = win win.
I’m not sure about your house, but we suffer from much ‘stuffocation’ around here! After much persistence from our eldest son, we recently did a big clear out and held a garage sale. Oh sure, it wasn’t the most fun we’ll ever have on a Saturday morning, but it was great to clear out some of the stuff cluttering our house and we then donated the proceeds to the Leukaemia Foundation – win win.
If you’re not up for a garage sale, perhaps you could sell your second hand goods on Ebay or Gumtree and then donate the proceeds to a charity close to your heart.
- Are you a pirate at heart?
If you feel like embracing your inner pirate, Childhood Cancer Support runs Talk Like a Pirate Day on 19 September each year. In 2013, this date came around only 10 days after Sam’s diagnosis. Given all the very serious and difficult conversations we’d been having and procedures Sam was going through, it was nice to be greeted by all the Oncology staff dressed up in pirate theme that day.
Or maybe you can just don some pirate accessories and rock the bandanna look on 30 October to support our teenagers with Cancer. Canteen’s National Bandanna Day has now been running for 21 years and this year they’re aiming to raise $1.25Million. Click here to order a box of bandannas to sell at your business or school, or buy a bandanna from your local shopping centre in the next few weeks so you can show off your headwear in style at the end of October.
- Look close to home.
It’s great to support organisations who are helping families in need or doing very important research to eradicate Cancer altogether. It’s great to raise funds and run races and donate gifts. But, you know, there may be a family near you who would appreciate your real, actual, in-the-flesh help.
Maybe you could make an extra batch of muffins for them to put in the freezer so that packing lunchboxes is a bit easier. Maybe (if you’re all healthy), they’d love you to drop by and have a cup of tea and a chat. Maybe it’s as simple as a text to let them know you’re thinking of them, that you haven’t forgotten that they’re working very hard facing very hard things.
Sometimes we can make a difference in the simplest of ways and the impact is far greater than what we could have imagined. Go forth and make a difference.