How a Community Helps Children Facing Critical Illness
When founder, Paula Dupre’ Pesmen, got a call from the Make a Wish Foundation she was working as a movie producer on the set of Harry Potter. Three terminally ill children wished to visit the set as one of their final wishes. Those children catalyzed an idea that later became There With Care, a Colorado and California-based charity that provides individualized aid for families with children facing critical illness.
While the national organization celebrates in 10 year mark, Menlo Park’s chapter is ramping up for its third year serving the Bay Area. Since opening its doors in September of 2011, There With Care has helped 350 families with critically ill children facing everything from heart and lung transplants to terminal cancer and blood disease.
“I think when people think of giving to an organization they think of how much money they can give, but that’s not all what we’re about,” says Sara Alexander, Executive Director of There With Care’s Bay Area chapter. “Whether it’s sitting with somebody, or taking a sibling to the park, or making sure people have enough food to eat….we really think of helping the families in a holistic way.”
Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital refers families who have limited to no support networks. From there the charity contacts them within 48 hours to begin a caring relationship that generally lasts about three months. During this time, There With Care get to know the families and their situation to see what’s needed most. Often times they have no local ties, or have had to leave their job to be bedside with their child.
Offering a highly individualized program, There with Care donates weekly groceries and meals; provides new mothers with baby essentials; assists mourning families with funeral services; and resources the community for a free auto repair or gas cards to offset the costly transit that comes with frequent hospital visits. Yet, it’s not just about giving a financial or physical gift.
“This week we have a 3-year-old in the hospital whose mom is very bored and the child hasn’t had many visitors. So, we are just looking for volunteers who can go to go to the hospital over the weekend to spend some time with the family. Sometimes it’s just about giving time and care.”
As a relatively new organization, There With Care runs off of in-kind donations from local residents and businesses, as well as the generous time of their volunteer network. Whether contributors are organizing food or diaper drives, cooking food, or babysitting
and tutoring siblings, the charity has been blessed by a community that consistently extends their time and talents for the betterment of others.
Alain Pinel Reatlor, Greg Celotti, his wife, Julie, and daughter, Katherine, are just a few individuals who’ve seen the organization’s heart-warming work first hand.
“It’s the simple things that are so big to these families,” says local volunteer, Julie Celotti. “The people that work at There With Care have the biggest hearts out of everyone I know. It’s such a beautiful thing. The work they do really warms my heart.”
Built by the community’s talents, the ways to support the charity are truly limitless. For some it means driving a family to the hospital, so the mother can sit in the backseat with her sick child. For others it could offering a free housing cleaning for immune-deficient patients. The options are endless.
Aiming to aid 250 families this year, the Bay Area organization plans to extend its reach by potentially partnering with UCSF’s Benioff Children’s Hospital in 2015.
“[There with Care] offers a really beautiful way to see how people come together to support families in need…On a daily basis you’re seeing what someone else is going through, and you can emphasize and show your care by doing something. It really does make a difference.”
For more information on how you can contribute to Bay Area families facing critical contact: