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.
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 with your tweens and teens. It will grow your empathy for these kids and their families. It will motivate you and your kids to do something. And as one mom shared with us: every act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
1. Read Something for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
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).
2. Gift Something for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Buy or gift a headband from Headbands of Hope. Headbands of Hope was founded by Jess Ekstrom 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.
3. Do Something for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
If you know a family whose child has cancer, you can do something to directly support them. Moms of kids with cancer or chronic illness shared how others were helpful in specific, tangible ways.
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 Something for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Donate to your alma mater’s Miracle Network Dance Marathon or give to a college student you know who’s participating. Adjustments have been made during the pandemic, but the fundraisers are still happening.
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 $300 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 Something for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Wear gold for pediatric cancer awareness and share your message of encouragement on social media. Use hashtags like these: #ChildhoodCancer, #ChildhoodCancerAwarenessMonth and #GoGold
6. Bake Something for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Host a Bake a Difference bake sale for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. You can do a pandemic-friendly virtual bake sale, an in-person bake sale with your own cookies or a sale with individually packaged cookies from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.
When their 2-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, his parents (and 250 volunteers) hosted a bake-a-thon to raise money for childhood cancer research. That bake-a-thon raised awareness and over $420,000 and was the beginning of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Since then, they’ve given over $17 million to leading pediatric cancer research centers in the US.
7. Stream Something for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Create or join a live stream through A Kid Again to give families a time out from illness. This is a perfect way for tweens and teens to volunteer!
We love the mission of A Kid Again because they make life for families caring for a child with a life-threatening illness feel a little more normal. Ongoing, fun-filled adventures organized by A Kid Again allow families to connect with each other and create positive memories. They’ve served over 206,000 families since their start.
One of their newest initiatives is Streaming for Adventures which allows families to participate in fun, online activities. Volunteers can help facilitate these adventures by doing live gaming, a cooking show, an interview, or anything they can dream up. A Kid Again says, “Making memories is the best part about being a kid….and you can help make that happen.”
8. Shop for Something to Support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Shop with Amazon Smile to support your local children’s cancer hospital, research center or nonprofit organization. When you use Amazon Smile, Amazon donates 0.5% of your purchase price to the organization of your choice. It costs you nothing! And it’s really easy. You can search by name, location or cause.
9. Carry Something to Support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Volunteer with your family to Carry a Bead and encourage a child with cancer or other serious illness.
The minute I found Beads of Courage online, I knew we needed to find a way to support their mission. The Carry A Bead program is an easy and meaningful way to support families dealing with childhood cancer and other illnesses. It’s also a great way to spend time with your own family, especially if you have tweens and teens who can understand more about the reality of childhood cancer.
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.
10. Volunteer for Something to Support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
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.