Candlelighters of Brevard: Central Florida Humanitarians
By Maria Sonnenberg, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living // November 3, 2012
2012 CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN
Because Kids Can’t Fight Cancer Alone
CONSIDER THIS: Your child has just been diagnosed with cancer. For treatment, you must take him to Orlando for months, maybe years, sometimes staying there for days or weeks at a time. Your life is on hold indefinitely and you may have to quit your job at a time when your family most desperately needs your income.
“Treatment for a child with leukemia can take up to three years and some cancer treatments can take three weeks out of the month,” said Carrie Wam-McCarthy, executive director of Candlelighters of Brevard, which helps families of cancer-stricken children cope financially and emotionally.
A diagnosis of cancer is both emotionally and financially devastating, particularly for families of young children. Candlelighters of Brevard cannot cure cancer, but it is a light of hope to families of children suffering from cancer.
Because of the lack of pediatric oncologists in Brevard, families with a child suffering from cancer must travel to Orlando or beyond. The 56 families currently being helped by Candlelighters annually log 182,000 miles and spend $27,000 on gas to get their children to treatment.
Candlighters eases this burden with funds to cover the exorbitant cost of transportation to and from out-of-county cancer treatment centers and hospitals during crucial treatment. The organization also pays for parents’ stays at Ronald McDonald Houses or similar facilities. Families are also reimbursed for costs of cancer medications for their children and Candlelighters’ utility assistance program helps keep the lights on at home if the family is struggling to make ends meet.
Candlighters eases this burden with funds to cover the exorbitant cost of transportation to and from out-of-county cancer treatment centers and hospitals during crucial treatment. The organization also pays for parents’ stays at Ronald McDonald Houses or similar facilities.
Families are also reimbursed for costs of cancer medications for their children and Candlelighters’ utility assistance program helps keep the lights on at home if the family is struggling to make ends meet.
Wam-McCarthy knows first-hand how difficult life is for these families, since her own daughter, Chelsea, was diagnosed with kidney cancer when she was four years old. Chelsea is now 24 and cancer-free, but Wam-McCarthy continued her association with Candlelighters.
“Out of the worst thing that happened to me came the best thing that happened to me, Candlelighters of Brevard,” said Wam-McCarthy. “Once you’re a Candlelighters family, you’re always a Candlelighters family.”
Primarily volunteer-driven, the organization generates funds for families through sales at its Indian Harbour Beach thrift shop.
Candlelighters’ Angel Car Care Program, funded by the Nelson family, Coastal Mitsubishi/Hyundai and Cocoa Hyundai provide free car repair and maintenance for families who must travel thousands of miles to seek treatment for their children. The Platinum Coast Orchid Society also helps with prepaid gas cards.
Many families would not be able to afford to celebrate holidays were it not for Candlelighters’ Adopt-a-Family program, supported by individuals, groups and corporations.
So families can work through the many emotional issues associated with childhood cancer, Candlelighters’ Christina Harker Memorial Counseling Services enables them to connect with licensed therapists. These professionals additionally provide solace and comfort to families who must come to terms with the fact that their child will not survive.
When a child loses the battle, Candlelighters’ Angel Fund provides a financial donation for final expenses. A native Florida tree is also planted in the child’s memory on the first anniversary of his passing, a gesture of remembrance made possible by the Rebecca Wolfe Memorial Fund.
“No one should have to face childhood cancer alone,” said Wam-McCarthy. With Candlelighters of Brevard, families do not.
CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION ABOUT CANDLE LIGHTERS
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The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards were created to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that dedicate their Time, Talent or Treasure to help people in need locally – and around the world.
This year, more than 40 deserving humanitarians will be honored during the Gala, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 8 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place, with the festivities beginning at 6 p.m.
“Over the years, our editorial team has had the distinct honor and pleasure of identifying and featuring the many members of our community who give back so much and are dedicated to reaching out and helping others, here and throughout the world, in a multitude of ways,” said Maverick Multimedia Editor-In-Chief Dr. Jim Palermo.
“We remain firmly committed to identifying and telling those stories and providing a timely media platform to recognize Space Coast and Central Florida residents’ altruistic contributions on a regular basis in our magazines, as well as SpaceCoastDaily.com,” said Dr. Palermo.
This inspiring and compelling event is sponsored by Brighthouse Networks, Health First, Brevard Physicians Network, MPAC ACO, Community Credit Union, Kindred Hospital, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, Florida Pain, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine, CentralFloridaMedicine.com and SpaceCoastDaily.com.
FOR MORE INFORMATION or to make a reservation to attend the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala call 321-615-8111 or e-mail SpaceCoastMedicine@gmail.com