Kids Are Our Heros!

It started with an assignment

7-year-old Lucas Martin came home from school one afternoon and told his mom he needed to gather up his change for a school fundraiser. The school was hosting a “change-drive” for a well-known, very large, cancer foundation. While Lucas and his mom were gathering his change from his “Give” money, he began to ask questions about what non-profits do and where his money would be going.

Mary, Lucas’s mom, just happens to work in the non-profit sector as a marketing consultant and jumped at the opportunity to give her son a peek into her world. They looked up this particular non-profit on the internet to learn a little more. Lucas liked the idea that his money would be going to help people who were sick, but he was disappointed to know how much of it also went to pay for marketing and salaries for executives.

As adults, we understand how a business is run, and yes, non-profits are very much businesses with expenses and operating costs. That concept is much harder to grasp for a child. Heck, let’s face it, we don’t like it as adults either. We want our money to go directly to the cause, right?

The Solution

Mary had a solution to her son’s dilemma. She told him about her friend’s non-profit called Layla’s Legacy. “Layla’s Legacy gives money directly to families who need it and to the people doing research to make better medicines for cancer. Would you like to give your money them instead?” Yes! Lucas was in! The next Saturday afternoon, Lucas and Mary came to our house and he presented me with his donation. It was awesome to see his excitement and connection to what he was doing! What an amazing young man he is!

He wanted to take it a step further, though. Lucas wrote his teacher a letter, telling her what he learned about non-profits and why he chose to give his money to another foundation. The idea was passed along to the parent-run committee, so perhaps, next year Lucas’s idea of picking a local non-profit will come to fruition!

Kids Can Do It!

One thing that has surprised more than anything else since starting Layla’s Legacy, is the amount of support and heart kids have for kids’ causes. Too often we sell them short, thinking they can’t understand or grasp the concept, but children have an innate sense of empathy for others that we lose as adults. Their hearts are soft.

As part of our advocacy program to bring attention to the lack of government funding for childhood cancer, we have started an initiative called Gold Out. Each September, during Childhood Cancer Awareness month, we are challenging schools at all levels to “Go Gold” for Childhood Cancer. This can be anything from hosting a Gold Out football game, as our school Prince of Peace Christian School did last year, to hosting book drives in an elementary school.

Here are a few other ways schools can Go Gold for Childhood Cancer:

  • gold school t-shirt fundraiser
  • change/penny drives
  • Gold Out games (junior high and high school)
  • book drives for your local children’s hospital
  • toy drives/gift card drive
  • card writing campaign for kids in the hospital

Need even more ideas? Check out our post on 10 ways to get kids involved in fundraising.

Layla’s Legacy would love to talk to your school and community about becoming a partner in advocacy! Contact us at info@laylaslegacy.org to learn more.

 

10 Ways Your Kids Can Get Involved

Layla Stamp wanted to be a nurse when she grew up. She would often tell us, “I want to take care of all the sick kids in the hospital.” She knew, even at 4-years-old, that kids shouldn’t be sick and stay for a long time at the hospital. Her ability to stay positive, always smile and make a new friend are the things we strive to live out through Layla’s Legacy.

But those characteristics aren’t special only to Layla. Kids are resilient, empathetic and natural helpers, and here at Layla’s Legacy, we know that kids can help kids. Statistics show that 1 in 285 children will be diagnosed with childhood cancer by the time they are 19 years old. With those odds, the likelihood of your child knowing someone with cancer is high.  It’s important for adults to empower our children to help their peers. Let them engage in fundraisers to support their friend or kids at your local children’s hospital. Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

1. Drives

If I listed out each one individually, we could have a Top 50 list, but let’s just lump them all together. Whether it’s a change drive (gathering loose change for donation), gift card drive (generic cards, gas cards, restaurant cards), a book drive (new books are required for hospital donations) or a toy drive (again, new), drives are a great way to make a big impact and involve a large community. You can even add a competitive component by making it a contest between classes, grade levels, schools, etc. The winner gets a pizza party, extra time at recess or a “free dress day” at school. Honestly, the possibilities are endless.

2. Silent auction or raffle: 

I think most people get nervous at the thought of organizing a silent auction. They do take effort and a number of volunteers, but the return is worth it! The biggest piece of advice I can give on silent auctions is to have something for everyone. Men, women, young, old, inexpensive, high-roller. Kids can easily solicit donations from local businesses or offer services of their own for sale (see #9), plus help advertise and sell tickets.

3. Gold Out games 

Want a way to involve an entire school fan-base? This is it! You may have seen “Pink Outs” at schools in the past, and this is the same concept, except Gold! Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is in September, so it’s the perfect time for a Gold Out football or volleyball game. When we did one at our school there were t-shirts sales, face painting, a bake sale, food truck, and pony rides. We said, “go big or go home!”

Not that every school could or would go that far, but the message is far more important than the delivery. Our kids’ lives matter. And losing even one to childhood cancer is unacceptable when only 4% of our federal budget for cancer research is directed to pediatrics.

4. Clean out those closets

With Marie Kondo and tidying up all the rage these days, now is the perfect time to use your old stuff to do some good. Sites like eBay and Poshmark will let you sell online and donate the proceeds to a charity of your choice. Or skip the middle man and have an old-fashioned yard sale making the donation directly to your favorite charity.

5. Talent show 

How much do kids love to show off their talents in front of other people? Many of the schools in our area will do a talent show to raise money for the parent/teach organizations, so why not take that idea and use it for a charity fundraiser. Or skip the big production and have a backyard talent show. Get all the neighborhood kids together and charge friends and families for admissions and refreshments! Lights, music, action!

6. Treat stand 

#5 is a great segway into #6. Any sort of treat stand is always a big hit. Whether it’s lemonade, hot cocoa, a bake sale or snow cones. Even a “bake-off” would be fun! Give it a theme like “Lemonade for Leukemia” or “Baking for Brain Tumors” to engage your donors in what you’re raising money for and you’ll have them lined up around the block.

7. Ninja-style course

This is an idea inspired by Bonfire.com. Use your local playground or gym to create a ninja warrior course out of ropes, cones, monkey bars and maybe even a bouncy slide. Have contestants pay to register as singles or a team. Set the date and compete! Don’t forget a fun prize for the winners.

8. Card Writing Campaign 

Being in the hospital is hard for kids. They miss their friends and feel isolated. Kids can organize a card writing campaign for their friend who is sick or for all the kids at the hospital. We met a group of students who were volunteering at Give Kids The World on our Make-A-Wish trip and they went home and wrote letters and cards to Layla. I still have all of them because it was such a kind and thoughtful gesture.

9. Neighborhood helper 

Kids are great at doing chores that adults loathe. The novelty of mowing the lawn or picking up after the dog hasn’t worn off yet, plus they (usually) don’t charge as much. If your child has an entrepreneurial spirit, let them sell their talents around the neighborhood to raise money for charity. You can help them create a flyer and go door-to-door letting all the neighbors know about what they are up to.

10. Opt for donations instead of gifts 

We’ve all seen “in lieu of gifts” on an invitation, but here’s a fun twist our friends used at their sons sixth birthday party. Mom divided up the guest list alphabetically and asked anyone with the last name A-M to please bring a gift for her son. N-Z would bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Layla’s Legacy. We had a mini toy drive in October!

We’d love to hear your ideas! Let us know what great ways your kids are making an impact and helping kids in their community.

5 Way To Help A Newly Diagnosed Family

In the beginning…

You can’t believe that someone close to you has a child that was just diagnosed with cancer. How did this happen? You see things like this on t.v. commercials and billboards, but you never thought you’d actually know someone in real life. The same question going through that parent’s mind is going through yours – What now?

There is no way to prepare for this, so trust me when I say this family is going to need your help. But how? Great question. Momcologists (that’s a mom of a child who has cancer…like an oncologist, but a mom) could write a book about the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to receiving help from friends and family. My goal here is to keep you off the bad and the ugly list.

Before we jump in, though, I want you to take note of the rest of the community around this family. Does there seem to be a person other than mom or dad giving updates, answering questions or coordinating things? If not, they need that person. Maybe more than one and they need to live in close proximity to the family. Mom and dad do not need to be answering a hundred text messages or emails to convey the same piece of information or to find a volunteer to help out with a sibling or to bring clean clothes to the hospital. So job #1 for you is to make that happen.

Every family situation is going to be different. From who the primary caregiver is (forgive me dads for mostly referencing “mom”), the financial situation, distance from the hospital and treatment schedule just to name a few. I reached out to my community of Momcologists and asked the question “What were the things people did for you shortly after diagnosis that were the most helpful?” Here is our list. Cancer-mom approved.

Food

Food seems to be the go-to move whenever there’s an illness or a new baby, right? What is it about hospitals that make us think, “these people are going to be hungry?” All kidding aside, not having to think or plan for meals is a huge load off the mind when you’re feeling completely overwhelmed. It’s no wonder this item was listed by virtually every single mom I surveyed.

But what if the family doesn’t want a meal train? I eventually canceled the meal train our wonderful friends had organized because it was just too much food. Instead, we requested people switch to sending gift cards if they wanted to help out. This was so much better for our situation because I could use them at the hospital to order meals delivered and dad and brother could use them at restaurants near home. They never go bad or expire and it allows loved ones that live far away to participate as well.

Also, don’t forget about grocery store gift cards! Find out what stores the family frequents and load them up with those. As one mom told me, “I just wanted to feel a sense of normalcy and cooking my own meals helped with that.” If you’re a very close friend or family member, go to the store and stock the fridge with essentials for them before they get home. That’s a fun surprise!

Other food-related ideas to consider: Grocery delivery service so the parents don’t have to get out to run errands. Apps like Instacart and Shipt are great for this. Meal delivery like HelloFresh. Amazon delivery of non-perishable goods like paper towels and toilet paper.

So, to sum up food: Start the meal train, but check in with the family to make sure it meets their long-term needs. It might end up being a combination of all the options depending on their treatment schedule.

Siblings and pets

Long hospital stays can mean long stretches away from home. Not everyone is as fortunate as we were to have an amazing children’s hospital in their city, so going for treatment may mean driving hours to another city or even state. If there are other children at home, go ahead and queue the parental guilt because it’s going to get ugly. Having someone you can trust and rely on to help with siblings is an amazing gift.

Whether it’s helping with school transportation, play dates, sports practices and games, this category is wide and varied. Many times siblings end up staying with extended family like grandparents. More than one mom mentioned how friends would come to pick up the brother or sisters and take them out to dinner, the movies or the mall. A cancer diagnosis is incredibly difficult for the entire family. Showing love to the siblings is a major kindness and huge help for the parents.

One of the most amazing stories I’ve heard comes from my friend Natalie. Her son’s birthday was just a few weeks after her daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. She had no energy to even think about planning a party but hated the thought of skipping something so important to her son. Her friends stepped in and saved the day by scheduling, organizing and executing the entire shindig.

Maybe the other kids at your house are all fur-babies. Boarding can get expensive, so offering to step in and take care of the pets is a huge help as well. A mom in one of the online cancer support groups told me her dad came and took their two dogs back to his house for a year while their child went through treatment. That is seriously amazing!

Housework

Coming home from an extended stay at the hospital is a huge relief…until you realize what’s greeting you are piles of laundry, dirty bathrooms and an un-mowed lawn. I recall unpacking from our week-long chemo treatments and being completely overwhelmed with all that needed to be done at home and I just wanted to take a nap in my own bed.

Get a group of people together to pitch in and have a housekeeper come regularly. Or maybe it’s just a group of volunteers who are willing to clean their friend’s house. Either way, the parents (especially the mom) will thank you! Don’t forget about the laundry. Our friends used to take loads to their house, wash/dry/fold and bring it all back like wonderful laundry fairies. Everyone needs a laundry fairy.

As I talked to other parents about what they found to be most helpful, the thing that ranked almost as high as the food category was having someone take care of the lawn. I love the way one mom put it when she said: “Precious time at home shouldn’t be spent on yard work.” Amen, sister. If the family has the opportunity to be home for an extended period of time, they should be doing things AS A FAMILY. So hey neighbor, while you’re at it, push that mower over next door and take care of their yard, ok? Thanks!

Visiting

Do you know what a parent stuck in the hospital with their child really wants? Not to feel alone. And for their child to not feel alone. Use good judgment if you’re not feeling well or have been around someone who is sick. Otherwise please come visit us (unless you’ve been specifically told not to. Then don’t).

If you haven’t had to stay in a hospital room for an extended period of time, consider yourself lucky. For me, the walls would start closing in around me on day three. It gave me renewed strength just having someone come sit and talk with us or go for a short walk outside. After our initial diagnosis and surgery, I didn’t walk outside for almost a week. Seeing friends was extremely beneficial for Layla as well. She got tired of talking to just mom all the time and Lord knows she spent too much time on the iPad.

Be sure to let your kids come visit their friends who have cancer. If not in the hospital, then definitely when they are home. Peer support is not just for parents. I can’t tell you how many times I hear stories about outgoing kids with lots of friends spiraling into depression because none of those friends were there for them while they were sick.

Hold tight, I’m going to get on my soapbox for a second: Childhood cancer advocacy starts with our children. If we’re teaching them to be afraid or worse, not talking about it at all, we are robbing them of the opportunity to develop empathy for their peers. Statistically speaking, 1 in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20, so the likelihood of your child going to school with someone who has cancer is high. We can empower our kids to advocate at an early age! They are not too young to make an impact! [stepping off soapbox] 

If the child goes to school with your child, talk to their school about a letter writing campaign. Kids love to get mail and cards and it will remind them they are missed and being thought of. Crossing over into the next category a little prematurely, but having shirts or bracelets made for the kids at school to show their support, doing a penny or change drive for the family…basically, anything to involve the school and classmates.

Support

Let’s just go ahead and use the “m-word.” We’re talking money here. This category is a bit of a no-brainer, but like food, is not necessarily one-size-fits-all. Usually, the first thing that happens when a family is in crisis is a friend or family member starts a GoFundMe account. That’s great as long as the community around the family has money to give. Very rarely, does something like that go viral where hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised overnight. If it happened every day, Layla’s Legacy wouldn’t need to exist, and that would actually be pretty awesome.

Little things also make a huge impact. One mom mentioned a friend giving them access to their Netflix account and loaning them an iPad. When we were inpatient, Layla couldn’t go to the playroom because of an infection she had. She loved to do crafts, so our friends kept her stocked up on loads of them to keep her busy. For older kids, audiobooks, DVDs, books (or a Kindle), iTunes gift cards for gaming or music plus headphones are great ideas.

Gas cards and generic gift cards are perfect if you hate the idea of fees going to online fundraising. They are perfect because the family will always need them. I never worried about having the cash for the vending machines because I could swipe a Visa gift card. If you have a co-worker living this nightmare, see about donating vacation time. I know a mom who received this gift so she didn’t have to take unpaid leave after her paid family leave of absence expired. This allowed her to keep receiving a paycheck and still stay at the hospital with her son. HUGE!

Let’s review

Food, siblings, chores, visiting and monetary support.

The journey in front of this family is long. I could think of twenty more categories and ways to help them. If there is one thing I can stress above all else, it’s that they’re going to need you to be in it for the long haul, too. Things like this tend to show us who our ride-or-die friends truly are, so be one of those friends. If they aren’t asking for help, don’t assume that’s because they don’t need it. Assume it’s because they’re proud or stubborn or don’t know how to ask (I was that person!).

If you are a family going through this right now, I’m so sorry. I’m praying your community has you covered. Are you through treatment and on the other side? Please comment and let us know any other ideas you can give.

 

Top 3 Ways To Help!

The question I get asked more than anything is “How can I help the foundation?” And while I’d like to dance around the truth, the honest answer is “Donate.” We do need volunteers at events and people to attend our fundraisers, but the day-to-day giving goes a long way, too.

The fact is, the work we do is based on giving money away (tough job, right?) During our time at the hospital, we saw a need for more financial assistance to families going through treatment. The ability for us to pay a family’s rent or car payment for a month or two can ease a huge burden for parents. Often, one parent has had to cut back hours or quit work altogether in order to care for their sick child. Unfortunately, in many cases, these families didn’t have much room to work with even with both incomes. We coordinate with the social workers at the hospital to identify these families, what their needs are and then take action.

The other area where we invest our money in is research. If you know our story, you know we went through a number of chemo protocols with no success in defeating the cancer cells that had invaded Layla’s brain. Brilliant scientists are working hard to develop trials that will someday be a cure for children like Layla, but with only 4% of the entire NCI (National Cancer Institute) budget going to pediatric cancer research, it’s up to people like you to help drive the change. It’s been said that this 4% is equal to the amount that Americans spend at Starbucks in just 3 days! When you put it in perspective, it’s easy to see you don’t have to be a millionaire to make a difference with your donations.

Here are a few ways you can help us make a BIG impact even on a small budget:

1. Give monthly

We know that shelling out a big chunk of money at one time isn’t in the budget for most of us, but giving a small amount each month seems much more doable. Set up a reoccurring donation of $25 a month (or more!) We’ve set a goal of helping five families each month which is an estimated $1,000 per family. That means we need 200 people to generously commit to donating $25 each month. Won’t you help us reach that goal by setting up a monthly donation here. Or you can use our text-to-donate system by texting DONATE to 972-842-1015.

2. Create a Facebook fundraiser for your birthday

Who needs another sweater, candle or gift card for their birthday? Unless it’s Starbucks…always say yes to Starbucks gift cards 🙂 Facebook fundraisers are easy to create and allow people to give at a level they feel comfortable with. You can give each person’s donation a “like” or a private message Thank You. Bonus: it also spreads the mission of Layla’s Legacy to all your friends and followers and helps us get the word out. Facebook doesn’t charge a fee either!

3. Give the gift of a donation for birthdays or holidays

Stuck on what to get your Aunt Sally and crazy cousin Janice for their birthdays this year? You never have to worry about buying the wrong size when you give the gift of a donation. Know someone who prefers a little something wrapped up for a special occasion? Layla’s Legacy has super soft t-shirts, hats, pullovers and stemless glasses available for a donation. Or make the donation for someone else and keep the goodies for yourself. Win-win 😉 Check them out here

BONUS – Make it a family event

Studies show that kids who see their parents giving back become adults who do the same, so make it a family affair. Host a lemonade stand, bake sale or even a neighborhood car wash. Every contribution is important, no matter how big or small. The act itself has a ripple effect.

 

So there you have it. Nothing crazy or fancy, but built up consistently and over time, we will see one small snowflake turn into a giant avalanche of giving!

Layla’s Legacy #DoMore Shirts

Our message to the world is to #DoMore for kids with cancer. Awareness is the first step, but ADVOCACY is what creates ACTION! From a lemonade stand to a toy drive, no contribution is too small.
Wear your Layla’s Legacy gear proudly and tell people all about it!
Multiple styles and colors available!