Today I was confronted by the “what ifs” of my worst nightmare.
I walked through the doors of the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation (NNCCF) thinking about the sober reality underscoring the need for this non-profit: It is one of the first places families come after a cancer diagnosis of a child.
Just imagine that for a second.
How would you feel walking through those doors, if it were your child? How could you even prepare yourself for that? How would you begin processing this terrifying diagnosis? What resources would be available to help?
These are the questions that the NNCCF helps families answer. As Director of Community Engagement Lisa Shaffer gave us a tour of the facility, we first saw the wall of faces — snapshots of the countless children they’ve helped, some of them pictured with their supportive, spectacular families.
The back room has the famous toy cabinet — full of brand-new toys, from which the Foundation’s young visitors can “shop.” Shaffer describes times when the entire staff is in that back room, playing cards, holding impromptu karaoke dance parties or dressing up in costumes with newly diagnosed children while their parents are learning about resources.
“We’re a safe place for kids and their families,” Shaffer describes. “When a child is diagnosed, it’s actually a family diagnosis — this is something they all go through together. And we are here to help.”
Specifically, the NNCCF provides financial support during treatment and follow-up care, they fund scholarships for childhood cancer survivors or young adults in treatment, and they provide toys when a child needs them most — often during extended hospital stays.
“These are not just toys though,” she explains. “Our families tell us that these are actually their saving grace. These kids are in the hospital, and just like all kids, they don’t want to be poked and prodded. They don’t want to be there. They don’t want to be sick. So having a toy to unwrap is a bright spot, and it helps keep their spirits up.”
The Foundation also hosts monthly gatherings for families who are going through their own cancer journeys. “They can talk, commiserate, bond — no one else truly understands what they’re going through, so these events are incredibly important.” These get-togethers happen at places like the Summit movie theater (the team at the Summit carefully wipes down all surfaces with antibacterial wipes to ensure sanitized spaces) or the picnic area during an Aces game.
NNCCF also provides financial resources for families to get professional therapy (including life coaching and grief counseling), and they can help brainstorm ideas for tackling complicated insurance questions.
But the bottom line is the reality that this non-profit is grant-funded and depends on the generosity of our community. What do they need, exactly?
- First and foremost: Money. “No one can afford cancer,” Shaffer offers. “Money helps provide such important resources for these families who are in desperate need.” Donations help with medical expenses, travel expenses related to treatment, and household expenses when a family faces a loss of income because they are by their child’s bedside.
- Awareness and advocacy. “People need to know who we are and what we do,” she says, including educating locals that NNCCF just increased the age of the youth they support to 26. This mirrors the age minors are allowed to stay on parents’ health insurance, and it underscores part of the NNCCF mission to focus on survivorship — a cancer diagnosis lasts well beyond their last chemo treatment, after all.
- Toys and games. “Families are in here — completely unexpectedly — almost every single day,” she says. “Allowing the child to choose a toy is such a simple gesture, but it goes a long way.” (PS: Nerf toys and anything LOL are in highest demand.)
For all of these reasons and so many more, I feel absolutely honored by the prospect of being “auctioned off” in Saturday’s Basement Bachelors and Bachelorettes. This local non-profit asks for so little, yet does so much for our local families in need. All proceeds from the auction will go directly to the NNCCF.
Please join me along with other bachelors and bachelorettes this Saturday, July 27, from 3-5 p.m. at the Basement. Admission is $10 and includes a drink, and bidding for those “on the auction block” will happen in $5 increments. This is not match-making, meaning platonic bids are encouraged; it is simply bidding on a chance to connect with a local who is passionate about helping a foundation that does so much for local children and their families.
And finally, please join me in sending NNCCF toys on occasion. It’s so easy: They have a wish list on Amazon, and you can send gifts directly to the non-profit through the website without even leaving the comfort of your laptop. Toys of all price ranges are on the list, and the toys bring incredible joy to local kids. Or of course, you can bring new toys to their location on Barron Way.
Imagine if it were your child. I did today, and now more than ever, I am so grateful for the team and the resources available at the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation.