Kids Cancer Network pivots in pandemic The Chandler Arizonan

Kids Cancer Network pivots in pandemic

Kids Cancer Network pivots in pandemic
City News

By Katy Springer
Guest Writer

COVID-19 has forced many nonprofit organizations into a difficult quandary: halt services temporarily or rethink the way they’re supporting those in need.

For Patti Luttrell, executive director for Children’s Cancer Network, the decision to continue serving families was easy – even if the solution required some real doing.

Luttrell and her staff quickly organized a series of drive-through events at CCN’s resource center in Chandler where families could pick up “essentials and distractions” packages.

The packages include gas gift cards to help them get to and from chemotherapy treatments, grocery gift cards for food, toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, cleaning supplies and activities for the kids.

The packages couldn’t have come at a better time.

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, one parent typically quits working in order to manage hospital visits and treatment schedules.

With the economy in freefall as a result of COVID-19, some of these families have been victim to layoffs or furloughs, cutting off their income altogether.

“CCN’s goal is to help families navigate a very difficult time,” said Luttrell. “More than ever, many of the families we serve are financially distressed and need support meeting basic needs.”

In April, the organization distributed 120 essentials and distractions packages – including $12,500 in gas and grocery gift cards – with plans to continue the scheduled drive-through events in May and beyond.

Since families whose children are hospitalized cannot bring food inside – a precaution given the current health crisis – CCN also donated $5,000 in hospital cafeteria passes.

“We wanted to make sure parents wouldn’t have to leave the hospital to get a bite to eat,” added Luttrell. “It’s costly to eat out, but it’s also hard for moms and dads to leave their children’s side.”

But it’s more than just financial support. Last month, CCN launched a Facebook Live series to offer discussion on a variety of hot topics for childhood cancer families.

Called “CCN Live,” the series is hosted by Valley radio personality Bruce St. James and features special guests who cover topics like caring for a child with cancer amid COVID-19, parenting during stressful times, and how mindfulness can benefit families facing a nightmare disease.

The series is not CCN’s first foray into online outreach.

Since many kids with cancer are isolated while in treatment – chemotherapy and other treatments weaken their immune systems and put them at high risk for infection – CCN already had experience connecting with children stuck at home through the nonprofit’s CCN Connect program.

“Just like kids everywhere, children with cancer are bored at home right now and eager for things to do,” said Luttrell. “We’ve built out this program to reach all of our families with virtual games, activities, opportunities to socialize, and to give them all a break from cancer.”

CCN serves hundreds of Arizona families each year, providing gas and grocery gift cards, hospital admission kits to help new families navigate the road ahead and adopt-a-family programs for back-to-school and the holidays.

The organization also hosts activities to boost self-confidence in young cancer fighters, programs to help siblings cope with cancer, and provide a multitude of other services and resources.

“Our focus right now is adapting our programs for the world we’re living in today,” said Luttrell.

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