Ronald McDonald House Creates a Safe Haven for Young Cancer Patients
Giving Comfort, a non-profit group, distributes care essentials while children are away from home
For young cancer patients, going through treatment is only half of the battle; they also have to continue living their lives -- getting an education, making friends and getting the basic necessities. This week, Giving Comfort, a non-profit organization that distributes toiletry products, toys and items of comfort to cancer patients- is making that a little easier for Ronald McDonald House residents, a non-profit organization that temporarily houses children and their families going through cancer treatment and other difficult illnesses.
"The diagnosis of cancer is devastating enough, but the thought of having to be displaced and spending time away from your home is very difficult," said Natalie Greaves, a representative from the Ronald McDonald House. "There are things you do miss when you're away and these kits are like a home away from home."
As a surprise for the young cancer patients and their families, Giving Comfort came to the Ronald McDonald House this week with care packages containing items like fuzzy socks, blankets, tea, games and puzzles. Each package also comes with a personalized note from the volunteer worker who put the package together, which usually comes in a backpack or tote. The Ronald McDonald House is their first Giving Comfort was formed in the fall of last year after Carrie Varoquiers, the founder of the organization decided that there was a need for assisting people going through cancer treatment with basic needs, and after interviewing 1,000 oncology doctors and nurses, she came up with a list of items for the recipients, which are divided by age and gender. They already have 100 different distribution partners around the country, from outpatient facilities to other Ronald McDonald houses.
"We usually do this as a surprise, there's so many surprises with cancer, so it's nice to have one that's pleasant," said Elizabeth Howland, director of development with Giving Comfort. Howland has a personal connection with the organization, because she lost her husband to cancer two years ago. "It's a lonely time to go through cancer treatment and I think through these comfort packages, they also feel a real connection."
At any given time, up to 84 families can stay at the New York Ronald McDonald house, located on East 73rd Street, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary. Once there, children not only have housing, but they can also participate in a variety of activities from tutoring to classes and social events with other children.
For Nargis Khamidov, who came over from Tajikistan with her infant daughter and teenage son, Khamid, who was suffering from a form of leukemia, said that Ronald McDonald was a lifesaver. At the house, she learned how to speak English, and her son practiced karate and participated in teen movie nights.
"I had two options: to go to the shelter or go here, and thank God I chose here," said Khamidov. "My family is so happy." The Khamidovs are now living in a house in the suburbs, and she also said that Khamid's cancer is in remission. He is awaiting surgery on his hip after a bout with avascular necrosis (collapse of the bone from cellular death).
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