“Hope is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops-at-all”
--Emily Elizabeth Dickenson
Everyone needs hope. Hope fuels us to face the darkest of times, and a sarcoma cancer can challenge one to the very core of our being. Knowing that we are never alone through this ordeal can make all the difference. Whether it is the kindness of family, friends, even strangers, and community programs, these support systems bolster and fortify patients and families to face the challenges of fighting and facing their sarcoma.
This year the NW Sarcoma Foundation has added the mission statement of “no one should face sarcoma alone” and out of it grew our Outreach Program. Included in our programs provided to our patients and families are Family Nights at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Meet-Ups in the Seattle and Portland Area, the Gift Bag Giving Program, and a soon to be live on-line chat board where sarcoma patients and families can post and connect with one another for support and sharing.
This year the NW Sarcoma Foundation has hosted three Family Nights at Seattle Children’s Hospital complete with arts and crafts, games, gift bags, pizza, and beverages and lots of fun and community for current and former patients and their families. In the spirit of community and solidarity, we are inclusive and invite everyone in our cancer community to attend our events regardless of diagnoses. Many of our sarcoma families have met families of various cancer diagnoses and have found support and commonality. As one sarcoma parent said “It was good to know we weren’t alone and that we could all be there for each other. It's good to be able to talk to other parents and families going through the same thing,” Kara Chitwood. Kara’s son Bretton is a 17-year-old osteosarcoma survivor and she and Bretton have attended several Family Nights. Kara has found great hope in meeting other Survivors at our Family Nights and mentioned how important it was that our president took the time to visit Bretton regularly, “it meant the world to us,” Kara Chitwood. That is community in action.
Our Family Nights began as a more structured event with check-ins and sharing, but evolved into an Open House style where families and patients could drop in at their leisure to allow for more flexibility in schedules and to accommodate last minute health issues that might occur. We found some inpatient parents could drop by and pick up food and art supplies for their children if their child could not attend. The parents found it helpful to learn about the NW Sarcoma Foundation and discover that there were other sarcoma parents available for support. Our Winterfest will be on Saturday, December 9th from 1-4pm mid-day so that we can reach more of our community.
The Gift Bag program was created in the spirit of outreach and hospitality where each patient is given a bag full of useful and encouraging items for an adult or child. The bags include small snack items, swag from either Seattle Children’s or SCCA, toys, and gift cards. It has a feel of warmth and kindness, and who doesn’t like to receive a gift? These gifts bags are given out at our Family Nights and provided to and/or mailed to new patients.
Pictured: Sarcoma Meetups in Portland (left) and Seattle (right) in the fall of 2017
The Meet-Up Program is a monthly community based program where survivors, friends, and family members can come together to meet at different coffee shops throughout the Seattle and Portland areas to talk, and to share about their mutual experiences ranging from the recent loss of a loved one, sarcoma diagnosis, survivors, and even family of survivors wanting to help others out. We’ve hosted five Meet-ups in Seattle and five in Portland with between three and eight attendees. The hope is for people to connect and establish relationships that will promote support and comradery as people move forward on their journey.
Our new website will go live in 2018 and provide a chat section that will allow visitors to post about their sarcoma journey, ask questions or connect with one another. The potential for patient and family support and interconnection is limitless. We are so excited to provide this opportunity and create another outlet for our sarcoma community.
Our mission: ‘No one should face sarcoma alone’, is becoming more and more a reality through our various Family Nights, Meet-Ups, Gift Bags, On-Line Chat and growing community projects. We also host two Dragonslayer events in Seattle and Portland, and two Dragon’s Last Rides in Seattle and Anchorage. These are both fundraisers and community events, but we are hoping to grow our outreach to Spokane, Idaho, and Montana. With your support, input, and passion, we will continue to grow, spreading awareness to more and more people and families like yours.
Board Member, Northwest Sarcoma Foundation