September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. We know many people want to help families and children with cancer, but just don't know where to start. We've gathered 10 ways to support cancer research or awareness of pediatric cancer, from purchasing give-back products to volunteering with your family to sharing pictures on social media. We also have advice on how to help kids and families you know, straight from parents who have dealt with a childhood cancer or other serious illness diagnosis.
Sharing books we love is one of our favorite things to do, and this is one you’ll want on your list! We are thrilled to be part of the launch team. If you order her book, you can get 50% off the Chasing the Bright Side collection, including a headband, t-shirts and a bag.
Jess founded Headbands of Hope and it’s one of our favorite give-back companies. For every item sold, they donate a headband to a child with cancer. They were the first social enterprise to support our idea of making service and volunteering easier for families. And as college educators, we love her backstory as a young college entrepreneur.
Don't you love the cover of the book? This book about optimism will make you laugh and spur you on to pursue your own dreams.
2. Read and share our post The Best Ways to Support Families With Sick Children (From Parents Who Lived It).
Many people know a family whose life changed forever the moment they received a serious diagnosis for a child. Life no longer feels normal. But there are things - both big and small - others can do to come alongside these children and their families and give them hope.
We asked three dear families in our lives to share a bit about their journey. They tell you how it felt, ways it impacted their lives beyond what they expected, and what others did to help keep them afloat. You'll learn the best ways to support families with sick kids straight from the parents who lived it (and who continue to live it).
We love this sweet photo of one of the moms who graciously shared her family's journey.
3. If you know a family whose child has cancer, you can do something to directly support them. These ideas helped parents who have been there:
From Lucy's mom: We had different groups help with yard work, laundry, grocery shopping, meal trains, house cleaners, errand runners, special outing with the older kids and even monetary donations. I remember the staff of the elementary school collected all sorts of hats for Lucy so she’d be ready when he hair fell out. She absolutely loved that gift! It was heartwarming and humbling to know that the day to day tasks were taken care of and we could focus on getting Lucy better.
From Ellie's mom: If you have a friend or family member who has a child with chronic illness - enter in. Learn what you can about the diagnosis on your own and then ask questions to understand that specific child’s needs. Offer to learn the details of that child’s care in case they need backup, or so you can include their child in a fun outing with your family.
Be persistent. Tell the child how strong, smart, and fantastic they are. Before all else, kids with chronic illness are, just that - KIDS. Get to know them, include them, be willing to enter into life with them. You won’t regret it.
From Violet's mom: Friends made us dinner; they drove an hour each way to visit us at the hospital just to offer a hug and a prayer; family paid for a hotel room so we could get a little rest from time to time; they fed and cared for our dogs; our lawn was mowed and our house was cleaned and decorated with balloons and banners when we finally got to bring our girl home.
If you have a gift or an idea or a talent, use it – maybe you’re a photographer and you can offer to take some family photos; or maybe you have plans to visit a theme park and you can take a sibling along to give them a day of joy (it’s especially difficult for siblings); if you can mow a lawn, cook (or order!) a meal, clean a house, or fill up a tank of gas - if you can think of one nice, simple thing to do for a family in the midst of childhood illness, it is worth doing. I promise.
4. Donate to your alma mater's Miracle Network Dance Marathon or give to a college student you know who's participating.
The largest network of student leaders in North America organizes dance marathons on high school and college campuses around the country throughout the year. Since 1991, the dance marathon has raised over $250 million for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.
This event is HUGE on the campus where we teach, and we love seeing the creative ways students fundraise and participate! It's a great way to support childhood cancer research and college students who are giving back at the same time. You can search for a local or favorite school and then donate directly to that dance marathon. (There are a few missing links depending on the school, so if you can't link directly from the Miracle Network page, try searching on the university's website.)
5. Wear gold for pediatric cancer awareness and share your story or message of encouragement on social media. Use hashtags like these: #ChildhoodCancer, #ChildhoodCancerAwarenessMonth and #GoGold
Image credit: Mayo Clinic
6. Order our Give Hope to Sick Kids box.
It's overwhelming to think about the many families facing sickness, because it's scary to think that it could happen to us. We ask you to put that aside and choose to learn more as a family. It will grow your empathy for these kids and their families. It will motivate you to do something. And as one mom shared with us: every act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
We donate 20% to A Kid Again, our nonprofit sponsor for this box. Each box includes:
- a guide for an interactive 90-minute lesson (videos, quizzes & games) created with nonprofit sponsor A Kid Again
- supplies to do a service project that directly supports a sick kid through Beads of Courage
- gift from Headbands of Hope (your purchase means a headband is donated to a sick child)
- digital badge to track and verify service hours
Momcology is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing peer support to childhood cancer families. Although we haven't experienced a child's cancer diagnosis, we have friends who describe the devastation and loneliness. Primary caregivers feel less isolated when they can share their journey with other families experiencing the same thing: "Momcology currently connects over 200 families per month to our secure, moderated and guideline-based online support."
8. Volunteer with your family to Carry a Bead and encourage a child with cancer or other serious illness.
This is a perfect family volunteering activity! The minute I found Beads of Courage online, I knew we needed to find a way to support their mission. We teamed up with them in their Carry a Bead program because it's an easy and meaningful way to support families dealing with childhood cancer and other illnesses.
Each time you carry a bead, you support the mission of Beads of Courage with your donation AND encourage a child with the bead you carry and return. The bead you return will be given to a child on a tough treatment day or to celebrate a treatment milestone.
Image courtesy of Beads of Courage
9. Participate in or volunteer for the St. Jude Walk/Run in a nearby city.
Sign up for a local Walk/Run that benefits St. Jude (or look for one that supports a local children's hospital). If walking or running isn't really your thing, you can still help support fundraising efforts at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Volunteering at the annual Walk/Run may involve things like working the registration table, assisting with set up, handing out water bottles and more.
Families of kids of St. Jude never receive a bill for anything, including costs of treatment, housing, food and travel. And the life-saving treatments invented at St. Jude have increased childhood cancer survival rates.
Image credit: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
10. Download our Give Hope to Sick Kids Service Project Plan and volunteer with your family.
This service project and discussion guide leads you step by step through a family-friendly service project that gives hope to sick kids. The interactive guide includes stats, discussions questions, videos, and information from A Kid Again, a Columbus-based nonprofit that is expanding nationwide. We donate 20% to A Kid Again.