Week 1: The Valerie Fund
Imagine the following… your 6 year old child loses his first baby tooth. The excitement of leaving it under the pillow for the tooth fairy dwindles as he wakes up the next morning with gums that are bleeding heavily. You pull him close to look into his mouth and notice large bruises up and down his arms. What’s going on? You call the pediatrician who tells you to take him to the hospital. After batteries of tests, changing diagnoses, a slew of specialists and two weeks in the hospital, you learn your child has ITP (Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura), a blood disease where your child’s body attacks its own platelets. Platelets are responsible for clotting and your child’s platelet count has become so low he’s at risk of bleeding to death if he gets even a minor cut. How could this be happening? There were no prior symptoms. Dazed, confused, scared, you spend the next several months bouncing between your day to day life and the hospital as your child goes through a repeated dance of treatment, testing, waiting. Eventually, after almost a year of treatments culminating in a blood transfusion, your child’s platelet count rebounds and he’s on his way to getting better. If your child is lucky, his body will start to reregulate platelet count and he will go on to become fully healthy.
Battling the illness threw the entire family into chaos. You and your spouse took turns spending long hours in the hospital, juggling work, family, and trying to be there for your other children who had questions and fears of their own. The stress of the diagnosis and making decisions about your child’s treatment was overwhelming. The illness took a tremendous emotional and physical toll on the entire family. When your child finally left the hospital, you faced a multitude of challenges including reintegrating him into the classroom as he was having trouble socializing and was behind in his level of work.
This is where The Valerie Fund steps in. Believing the most effective way to fight childhood disease is to treat children in a holistic manner, they offer emotional, social and developmental support that works in tandem to medical treatment and extends to the entire family.
Their unique comprehensive and critical support services includes social work, counseling, medical education, hemophilia nursing, palliative care, psychologists, support groups and more. They walk alongside the child and his/her family offering much needed critical support. Associated with 7 top pediatric hospitals in NY, NJ and Philadelphia, they support over 6,000 children and their families each year.
The Valerie Fund Walk & JAG Physical Therapy 5K Run is one of the organization’s biggest annual fundraisers. I signed up to help set up the venue the day before the race. It was a beautiful, sunny Friday as we worked to set up a myriad of tents, tables and chairs across the sprawling campus of Verona Park. This year’s event had just under 3,000 registered participants and had already raised almost $900,000. We had acres of event activities to prepare for.
Some of the volunteers I worked alongside were mothers of children who had been diagnosed with childhood illnesses and who had or were still receiving services from The Valerie Fund. These women were open when talking about their journeys. Over and over again I learned how impactful the services from the Fund were to their families – that The Valerie Fund offers a lifeline of hope and strength through the darkest of hours. That the support and other services helped them find strength in times when they felt most isolated and frightened. I was moved by their stories, awed by their courage and strength and, although my participation seemed woefully inadequate when thinking about the impact of this organization, I was humbled to participate even in this tiny way for such an amazing cause.
To learn more about The Valerie Fund and their services, get involved, or to make a donation, check out their website at: https://www.thevaleriefund.org/