(Photo courtesy of Marley Weaver-Gabel)
On April 14, six Regis students volunteered with There With Care. There With Care (TWC) is an organization that provides support to families with critical illness. Though centrally located in Boulder, they have expanded to a Denver office as well as an office in the Bay Area. Each office has a “store” type of set up that is stocked with snack bags for hospital trips, pre-cut and packaged ingredients for dinners, and dry/canned goods. Along with their food supplies, they have a variety of necessary toiletries for the families they service.
While their primary service is this store, they also support families by providing transportation to and from the hospital, childcare for other children in the family, and some basic errands like car repairs. Not only do they function as an extra hand for families, they offer a community, which emotionally supports the families as well. Often, families face critical illness with little to no support, so There With Care gives them a friend to help them in their darkest times.
The group of Regis volunteers helped prepare toiletry bags and write notes to families who would be the recipients of the packages. Visiting the facilities, students saw the inside of their operation, which illuminated the “behind the scenes” of TWC. While working, students spoke with the Volunteer Coordinator at the Denver office, Karyn White, who shares her story below:
What is your official position at TWC? How long have you been with TWC?
I am the Volunteer Coordinator for the Denver offices. I have worked for them for two years. We were under TWC for 18 months and about a year after I came back to do volunteer training to start working with them.
Tell me a little bit about how you got involved with There With Care.
My oldest son was diagnosed with cancer almost 4 years ago, so we became a There With Care family. Every family is assigned a program coordinator and I used to call her my phone friend. She would just call and ask what we needed every week. I didn’t know what we needed most but she would have me walk her through the week to see what I need for her to help out with.
Was there a moment that inspired you to work for TWC after your experience with them?
Paula, the founder, came to my house during the holidays and brought a wreath. We have a wreath program where we give one live wreath to every family during the holidays. She came to my house to do a delivery and she brought her sons with her. She came into my home and introduced herself to me. She started asking Kaden [her son who was, at the time, battling with cancer] what he liked to do and what he was interested in. He told her he was interested in reading and movies and the Harry Potter series in particular. She shared that she used to work on the Harry Potter sets and stuck around for two hours just talking with us and getting to know our family. It really helped me see that this is all about care. It is just beautiful. When her and her sons left that evening, I told my husband: “I am going to work there.”
What they do is so amazing; not just for my family, but also for the other families we’ve met. The pediatric oncology family is so small, everyone knows who TWC is. After we were no longer a current TWC family, I attended a volunteer training session and I kept saying “when something opens up I want to work here.” Originally the Denver office was just supposed to be a pantry space but then they finally needed someone staffed in the Denver office.
What was the best part about being a family of TWC (recipient of services)?
TWC didn’t have an agenda for me. When they called and asked me what I needed, they just wanted to help me with what was heaviest on my plate. What my family needs in medical crisis is not the same as your family. They want to hear about what is going on in my life, whether I needed help with meals or help with siblings and supporting the other part of my family. They really want it to be centered on “what does this particular family need.” That was the best part; I got to choose what was best for my family and me.
After we have been through what we have been through, we wanted to have meaningful careers. I came here and my husband switched to work in the medical industry. For me it is really awesome to be involved in helping families who face critical illness.
On the other side, what is your favorite part about working with families?
One thing that has been important to me is that I have continued to do family deliveries even though I work here. It is an important connection that helps remind us why we are doing what we do. The feedback I receive is that it is truly a time that they need to focus on their child and we take care of things so they are able to do that. Life doesn’t stop because a diagnosis has happened. What sometimes seems like a pain in the rear in regular life becomes much harder. I love that I can be part of something that make a difference and I continue to see the difference it makes.
What is the most beneficial type of help people can provide to TWC?
One thing that is really important is that we want people to help in the ways that they really connect with. Some people connect with deliveries, some people just do events, and some people just do item drives. We have some kids who do lemonade stands or bake sales. It is hard to say one thing is the most important because there are so many things. If you make me choose I would say sharing our mission and helping us connect to the community. It is so amazing how we can connect and reach out. In the end, people are talking about it. You share things you are passionate about. The more we can reach out to communities, the more resources we can tap into. We serve 122 families currently, that is about 500 people per week. Over the course of 2017, we are projected to serve 500 families, which requires a huge budget. The average cost to carry family through crisis is $3,500.
Is there anything else you would like the Regis community to know?
We are volunteer based and we serve 450-500 people per week. We could not do that without our volunteers. We are not just taking care of the child, we are taking care of the whole family, mom, dad, sister, pet. It may be it is hard to see the impact once you’ve finished, but know that it is profound. It is important to remember the ripple effect.
For more information or to get involved, visit http://therewithcare.org.
Marley Weaver-Gabel Editor-In-Chief