Merry Christmas from Here to Serve!

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Christmas Nativity scene at sunsetTrue meaning of Christmas to Christians

Jesus’s birth and deity were foretold throughout Jewish scripture. These Jewish scriptures have since been adopted as the Christian’s Old Testament Bible. Today, Christians around the world celebrate Christmas as the incarnate coming of God to earth in the form of a man, Christ Jesus, to atone for sin. Jesus is celebrated at Christmas as the Savior of all mankind if you accept, through faith, his sacrificial death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. Christmas is one of the most sacred Christian holidays.

Is the spirit of Christmas still alive?

Some say, yes, but with a focus on Santa Claus rather than the birth of Christ Jesus. It has been given a new look throughout the years as Santa Claus takes center stage, often to the demise of celebrating Christ’s birth.

Who is Santa Claus?

The Santa Claus legend can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. Behind the jolly, red-suited, shopping mall Santa of today lies a real person—St. Nicholas of Myra, a Christian monk who lived in the third century A.D., in what is now Turkey. Admired for his piety and kindness, it is believed St. Nicholas traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick.

The much-admired Nicholas became the center of a series of folk legends. He was credited with stopping a violent storm to save doomed sailors, donating money to a father forced to sell his daughters into prostitution, and even restoring to life a trio of boys who had been dismembered by an unscrupulous butcher. Today, Nicholas is considered the patron saint of sailors, children, wolves and pawnbrokers, among others—as well as the inspiration for the figure of Santa Claus.

Coping with childhood cancer and Covid-19 this Christmas

Whether you celebrate Christian’s true meaning of Christmas as the Savior’s birth, or make it a holiday for gift giving focusing on Santa Claus, times are tough this year. Unfortunately, times are even tougher for families coping with childhood cancer at Christmas. Gone are the big family gatherings and public celebrations. No mall visits with Santa or trips to interactive Christmas displays. We understand the challenge parents face to maintain a sense of normalcy during stressful situations like Covid and cancer. So what do you do when things are topsy turvy?

Nothing is more precious than creating memories with loved ones!

I can’t think of a better way to create fun memories together than baking Christmas cookies! Can you? Check out this fun and easy Christmas Cookie recipe your whole family is sure to love!

Snowball Cookies


  • cup Land O Lakes® Butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups finely chopped pecans
  • Powdered sugar


  • Heat oven to 325 degrees
  • In a medium bowl cream butter, sugar together, add vanilla and mix well
  • Add flour and pecans, mix well
  • Chill dough in refrigerator
  • Roll into 1 inch balls
  • Place on cookie sheet 1 inch apart
  • Bake for 16-18 minutes until slightly golden brown
  • Cool for 5 minutes then roll in powdered sugar while still warm
  • Roll again in powdered sugar when cool


  • Use Peppermint extract for minty goodness!
  • Add 1/4 cocoa powder for the chocolate lovers
  • Substitute mini chocolate chips for pecans for a nut free treat
  • Get creative with red and green mini M&M’s!


Giving gifts brings joy to everyone, givers and receivers!

The possibilities are endless! Consider this idea! Give your precious gifts of joy to others by wrapping cookies with clear decorative wrap tied with ribbons or decorate mason jars to create cookie containers!

At Here to Serve, our commitment is to help everyone have precious time with loved ones. Even in the midst of this pandemic, Christmas does not need to be lost. Celebrations may look different this year, but they can be even more precious and you find new ways to bring joy to this day.

If you know a family who have children newly diagnosed with cancer please contact us here. If you are inspired to help us spread the joy of precious gifts of time and resources with your donation this holiday season, please follow this.

By Amanda Enciso


Happy Hanukkah from Here to Serve!

Kids Celebrating Hanukkah with Cancer in their familyDuring Hanukkah, many Jewish families look forward to lighting the menorah and celebrating with family traditions. The season can bring comfort and joy to those reveling in the festival of lights. But if your child is going through cancer treatment, it will drastically change how you and your family enjoy this memorable holiday. Added to this year’s holiday celebration is the continued threat of Covid-19. Many families are overwhelmed by stress, and there might be less time, energy, and financial resources available to celebrate. 

Hanukkah 2020 begins at nightfall on December 10th and concludes on the evening of December 18th. The eight-day celebration brings together extended family to take part in the rituals of lighting a candle each night at sundown, eating traditional foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyots (jelly-filled donuts). Many children will be spinning the dreidel and opening gifts. 

The word Hanukkah means dedication. The holiday celebrates the victory of a small group of Jewish patriots, the Maccabees, over the much larger Syrian army during the second century B.C. Hanukkah also commemorates the miracle of the lamp oil. At the time of the Maccabees victory, the reconstructed Second Temple in Jerusalem had only enough oil to light the menorah for one night, but the lamp remained lit for eight days. The story of this miracle has carried on throughout history. Today, the holiday is a reminder for Jewish people worldwide to keep this symbolic flame lit and pass down the Jewish religion and culture to the next generation.

At times, 2020 has brought moments of uncertainty and despair; celebrating the festival of lights takes on new significance. It is a chance to snuff out the darkness and celebrate with loved ones and rejoice in hope for better times. As the world faces challenges brought on by the pandemic, parents of children fighting cancer face even more obstacles. During the holidays, these challenges intensify. Still, it is important to remember that Hanukkah and other special occasions are meaningful to children and should be celebrated even if in a small way. It will help create a sense of optimism and stability when hospital visits and cancer treatments have become the new normal.

Celebrating Hanukkah in 2020

Modifications to holiday celebrations must be made if your child’s immune system is compromised by cancer and your family’s health is at risk for catching the coronavirus. Here are a few simple steps to prevent the possible spread of Covid-19:

  • Limit your celebration to your immediate household.
  • Celebrate with extended family and friends over FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom.
  • Send surprise care packages to those you love. 
  • Stay positive and understand the sacrifices you make this year will help to have more in-person celebrations in the years to come.

This year’s Hanukkah celebration will undoubtedly be like no other, and families will make new memories. Hopefully, over time these temporary adjustments will bring fond remembrances of intimate family time together .

If time, energy, or financial burdens hinder your family’s ability to create a memorable Hanukkah, remember simple moments and actions can be more meaningful than plates of sufganiyots and spinning dreidels. Let your creativity come out and spend quality time with your family. Some easy and inexpensive craft ideas can go a long way in making your child happy and worry free. Decorate your home or child’s hospital room and bring in the light of the season.

  • Popsicle stick Hanukkah decorations – Popsicle sticks, which can be purchased in craft stores, colored markers, and white glue are all that is needed to create a menorah and dreidel, or other Hanukkah themed decoration.  
  • Handprint Menorah – Paper, along with blue and yellow washable paint, can make a menorah using your child’s hand and fingerprints. Dip hands into the blue paint and place one hand down on the paper, making sure to press down firmly with fingers spread apart; fingerprints will form the candles. Repeat with the other hand, and be sure the thumbs overlap each handprint. Add flames to each candle by adding yellow paint to fingertips and press down at the top of each candle.
  • Watercolor Dreidel Crafts – A simple, colorful craft using cardboard or poster board, a variety of watercolor paints, and brushes. The cardboard should have a non-gloss finish that can absorb watercolors. Cut out several dreidel shapes, and use them as a template to create more cut-outs. Come up with different color combinations or patterns. Go one step further and hang the dreidels as a mobile.

For more Hannukah craft and baking ideas visit,

Whether your child is at home or in the hospital for this Hanukkah celebration, it is important to celebrate, even if the location is not ideal. At Here to Serve, we understand your quandary as this special holiday approaches, and we will do all we can to help you have the best holiday possible. 

All of us at Here to Serve wish you and your family a joyous Hanukkah, and we want you to know that we are available to ease your worries and help lower your stress and anxiety. Let us help you share laughs, love and create wonderful family memories. If you know a child recently diagnosed with cancer, please contact us, and our care coordinators will help fulfill your family’s needs. If you would like to donate to Here to Serve, please click on this secure link. We appreciate your continued support.

By Chris Smith

International Volunteer Day, Volunteers that Are Here to Serve!

volunteering with a family with cancerWhen your child is diagnosed with cancer, your whole world turns upside down. Just getting through the day is often a never-ending challenge. Your child’s health often becomes an obsession. There will be moments when you feel completely helpless and alone. This does not need to be the case. There is a support system for you and your child. From the friendly face that greets you at the hospital entrance, to the unknown blood donor who provides your child a life-saving transfusion, there are a cadre of volunteers who are serving pediatric cancer patients. Here to Serve is proud to include our volunteers as members of your support team.

December 5th is International Volunteers Day (IVD). It is a day observed world-wide and created by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985. This day is an opportunity to promote volunteerism and encourage governments around the globe “to support volunteer efforts and recognize volunteer contributions.” The theme of the 2020 celebration is “Together We Can Through Volunteering.” With the onset of Covid-19 and health turmoil changing our world, coming together seems more important now than ever before; this is especially critical for children fighting cancer. Caring people from all walks of life unite to help families going through the life-altering effects of cancer; many of these heroes are unpaid volunteers. They give their time, finances, and energy to help those in need, many of whom they may never meet in person.

An African proverb states, “it takes a village to raise a child.” It takes an even stronger group of volunteers to help a child battle pediatric cancer. This point is especially true during a global pandemic. When businesses are shutting down, and cities and towns are going through quarantine, cancer treatments cannot stop. Everyday life, including things like grocery shopping and household chores, can also not be put on hold. Here to Serve will also not stop or put our guidance on hold during this challenging time.

Unfortunately, our volunteer Care Communities within Here to Serve cannot wave a magic wand to rid your child of cancer. Still, we can provide assistance and support that builds a stable environment for families during the treatment period. Family Care Coordinators help your family set up and manage online Care Communities so that your focus and energy can be spent entirely on your child. Our Family Care Coordinators will conduct a needs assessment and provide resources to meet your specific care requests.

Our free-of-charge services include:

  • Meals
  • Errands
  • Child care
  • Holiday preparation and decorations
  • Holiday gift-giving
  • Pet care
  • Transportation
  • Organization of fundraising events

    For over 35 years, IVD has recognized volunteers worldwide, but one day a year is not enough to honor these compassionate individuals. At Here to Serve, we pay tribute to the generosity of our volunteers every day. And we encourage those who have the time and ability to join our family of volunteers and help those in need. Please check our current volunteer opportunities and share them with friends and family. If you are unable to help with your time, there are still other ways to support our cause by donating funds and items. Together we can all help children fight pediatric cancer.

    By Chris Smith

    Helping a family

    Boy scouts volunteering

    Giving Tuesday: Why Give?

    Donate to people dealing with cancer

    It is that time of year!  Giving Tuesday, a national initiative that brings awareness to giving, kicks off the charitable giving season on December 1st!

    What does it mean to give, to be altruistic? 

    Families need more help than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic. As children go through cancer treatment, their parents do not consider that in doing whatever is necessary to help their child, they are altruistic. For them, it is a natural state of being a parent; anything less would be unthinkable. It seems to be such an intrinsic part of human nature. But is it? How did it evolve? 

    What is altruism, and why is it important? 

    Definition of Altruism: 

    a: unselfish regard or devotion to the welfare of others //charitable acts motivated purely by altruism b: Behavior that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself, but that benefits others of its species. (Merriam Webster)

    It turns out, there is a genetic predisposition to be altruistic.  Richard Dawkins argues in his book, The Selfish Gene (1976), that “Gene selection provides one explanation for kin selection and eusociality, where organisms act altruistically, against their individual interests …  namely the argument that by helping related organisms reproduce, a gene succeeds in “helping” copies of themselves… in other bodies to replicate.” ( Therefore, despite genes selfishly churning out additional copies of themselves, some species developed altruism to help make copies of themselves. 

    How does this impact us today in society? Altruism leads to volunteerism.

    In his book, The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt shares a longitudinal study that shows a causal effect: “When a person increased all measures of volunteer work, all measures of happiness and well-being increased…” This effect was most notable in adults. “The benefits of volunteering for the elderly are so large they even show up in improved health and longer life. Adolescents are already immersed in a dense network of relationships…” He goes on further to say that “With age, however, one’s story begins to take shape, and altruistic activities add depth and virtue to one’s character.” Join us in virtuous volunteering, giving, and spreading joy all around. 

    Here to Serve understands altruism and the joy that comes with volunteering and giving back to help those in need. Our organization provides a heaven-sent net for the invisibly underserved; parents coping with childhood cancer. Here to Serve helps coordinate and organize much-needed volunteers and resources for families tirelessly caring for their children diagnosed with cancer during the Covid-19 pandemic which has heightened their need many times over. 

    We invite you to consider donating to kick off the charitable giving season and bring some joy to yourself and others! 

    But giving one day a year need not be the limit. Consider monthly giving. What feels comfortable? Just one person giving the cost of a daily cup of coffee every month can provide meaningful assistance for a family, such as covering cleaning services for their home or providing groceries through a gift card. Here to Serve gives more with less for families in need because of our wonderful volunteers. When you give to us, you actually give through us, giving pediatric cancer families the most help possible. Find out more here.

    Please spread the joy and share the story of Here to Serve with a friend. If you wish to follow an inspiration to volunteer or know of families newly diagnosed with cancer that need help, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    By Amanda Enciso

    It’s Thanksgiving! Gratitude in 2020…

    Woman looking over cliffsGratitude is a habit that presently eludes many Americans, and it is no wonder in the midst of this worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Gratitude is not an easy attitude to practice in 2020, even more so if you have a child battling cancer. As parents care for their critically-ill child, they face more restrictions and additional health worries beyond their child’s cancer when Covid-19 is added to the equation.

    As a cancer survivor and pediatric oncology nurse at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Kim Bira falls under two of these categories and she offers an empathetic and fairly rare perspective. Born and raised in Omaha to a loving family, she was ushered into the world of cancer at 9 years old when doctors uncovered an osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, around her knee.

    “I lived a happy, suburban, American apple pie childhood by most people’s standards,” Bira recounts. “Then when I started 4th grade, I felt as though a weighty painful brick was strapped permanently to my knees.”

    For 2 years thereafter, walking through life with this weighty brick strapped to her knees would be her greatest hurdle, and gratitude her greatest challenge. For starters, if you suddenly and rapidly lost most of your hair, had one or more painful bricks strapped to your knees, and had to make regular extended visits to the hospital for therapy that wiped you out and made you throw up, would you be at all grateful?

    Despite the immense challenges of resilience and evasiveness of gratitude, this difficult period and formative trial by fire ignited Kim’s career vocation as a kid in ways for which she is forever grateful and that she never considered prior to diagnosis. “Gratitude can often be felt most intensely in retrospect” Bira contends. “Every day that I look into an elementary school kid’s eyes and see that they feel trapped, I remember why I’m now a [pediatric] oncology nurse,” she states.

    “Cancer created many burdens,” says Bira, “but it also matured and liberated me in ways that I would not have experienced without that news I received [at 9 years old].” What naturally trapped Kim when she was their age now provides her compassion, purpose and perspective.

    Hesitant to submit that other kids glean the same things from experiencing cancer young, she concedes that many survivors and their family members come away from cancer treatments with renewed appreciation for the potential of each day and the possibilities it brings.

    At a time when it is particularly difficult for many to take hold of hope and find gratitude each day, Kim’s example and the stories of her pediatric cancer patients and families reminds us all never to take our days for granted and to appreciate the good in those who fill them. Concurrently, we are reminded to recognize the dreams we hold and the love we are called to give and receive from others at every turn.

    If you ever feel called to give such love or support to pediatric cancer patients and their families, please contact Here to Serve at any time and know of our gratitude for you. Meanwhile, we wish you a safe and blessed Thanksgiving, one that will allow you to reflect on what we can be grateful for even in the midst of a pandemic. Happy Thanksgiving!

    By Frank Kane

    COVID Meets Cancer, a Recipe for Catastrophe

    COVID ResearcherA parent sees life through a different lens after their child is diagnosed with cancer. No longer are they free to live a normal life or do normal family activities. They live in a bubble, except for the hands-on support from family and friends. If that were not challenging enough, now COVID-19 has changed even their ability to have help from friends, and all too often, family. Pediatric cancer families not only fear catching COVID-19, but passing it onto their critically-ill, immuno-compromised child. The world has changed with COVID-19, but for pediatric cancer families, their world has become insufferable!

    The way we live and interact with each other, the way we work, travel, and even run the simplest of errands is abruptly altered, and not in a good way! For many pediatric cancer patients and their families, COVID-19 shut down their support network and curtailed interaction and help from family and friends. Hospitals across the country have in place strict visitation policies or, more often, no visitation at all. The rise in COVID-19 cases this Fall has hospitals taking major precautions, and families of pediatric patients are feeling the impact more than most.

    Parents of pediatric cancer patients often spend long periods of time in the hospital while their child undergoes grueling treatments. Parents often rely on their support network to help them through these difficult days and nights. COVID-19 makes an already untenable situation even worse because most hospitals deny visitation and only allow one parent in at a time for a 12-hours shift before another parent can replace them. If you are an adult cancer patient, there are no visitors with the patient. With these restrictions in place, parents and caregivers cannot rely on their support network in the same way they could have before the pandemic, because friends and family can no longer freely come and go, provide company, deliver food, or simply just be there.

    Visitation policies vary among hospitals and while pediatric patients may have some exceptions to the rules, families are still impacted.

    • The Mayo Clinic Hospital in Wisconsin recently announced that while two parents or guardians can visit at the same time, they must both live in the same household.
    • A hospital in Hastings, Nebraska also allows two parents or guardians, but they can only leave and re-enter the hospital once each day; this is a common policy among many hospitals.
    • And, still, many hospitals across the country, and certainly those in CA, allow only one essential caregiver to visit a pediatric patient each day and no visitors are allowed.

    Parents and caregivers must rely on phone, text, email, or video to contact loved ones with medical updates, or if they need to hear a friendly voice. While Zoom, Skype, Facetime, and other technologies help, they don’t replace a loved one’s physical presence in the room.

    It is not just the strict or NO visitor policies that bring challenges; masks are required at all times while you are with your child. Have you ever tried sleeping with a mask? Parents and guardians have to do health screenings before they enter the hospital, and certain areas of the hospital, like the cafeteria and gift shop, have either shut down completely to patient parents, or reduced their hours and amenities. No coffee stands are open in most hospitals. These small measures to ensure everyone’s health and safety can make hospital stays even harder for families and patients.

    Here to Serve has found many ways to support families whose child is in active cancer treatment. Family Care Coordinators work with families to create an online care community. The online community brings together a support network to help families through their journey, whether it’s raising funds for financial support, providing gift cards for meals and other necessities, keeping the community updated about a child’s condition, or providing tangible ways to help! This is done even through the pandemic. This allows parents and caregivers to focus on their sick child and maintain quality time with their other children.

    If you are a family with a child who received a new cancer diagnosis, or if you know of a family who finds themselves in this difficult situation, please contact Here to Serve. Our team is ready to help families navigate this challenging new world in light of a childhood cancer diagnosis and provide support in ways most people have not even thought of.

    By Cristin Duerinckx

    November is National Gratitude Month: What are you grateful for?

    National Gratitude Month sticky notesIt’s National Gratitude Month! Many studies have shown gratitude helps alleviate stress and improve healing. This is especially true for parents and children battling childhood cancer. When challenging times come, gratefulness can elude us. Instead, parents’ mental and emotional focus is to get and give their child the best care and treatment.

    Focus on life’s blessings not its challenges.
    In the midst of this upheaval it is most important to take a deep breath, exhale and allow ourselves to feel into, become aware of, and simply reflect on the good things that are happening, whether it is the love of your family, the quality of your medical care team, the help of friends, a letter or card in the mail, or a good day with your child during chemo. We can also help our children focus on gratitude. 

    Exercise: Close your eyes, go within, and find that quiet place to focus on something you are grateful for. It may be as simple as the ability to inhale and exhale, a pleasant scent, a card, note, or phone call you received from a friend who encouraged you. What thoughts are you allowing your mind to dwell on? Do they serve your highest good, or hold you back? For just a few moments make a choice to have positive thoughts and allow for grateful thoughts to flow in. Ultimately, we do not have to suffer because we can change our thoughts. Make a decision to be grateful and it will reward you all day, every day!

    Project: Gratitude Journal
    A nice project for the boring hospital room is to decorate gratitude journals together. 

    What you’ll need:

    • Notebook
    • Colorful markers 
    • Art paper
    • Stickers 

    A daily practice of writing down several things you are grateful for will have a positive effect. When feeling especially low, start with little things like remembering a smile you received from your child, an all-knowing hug from your spouse, a dinner delivered, or a gift card used to give you a night off cooking. 

    Project: Thanksgiving Gratitude Tree.
    Start a new November family tradition of daily gratitude.

    What You’ll Need

    • Branches
    • Floral styrofoam
    • Large container 
    • Construction paper in autumn colors
    • String or yarn
    • Hole punch
    • Scissors

    Place the styrofoam in the container. This will hold the branches in place. Stick the branches into the styrofoam. Cut out leaves (about 2-3 inches in length so there is enough room to write). Punch a hole through each leaf and thread a piece of yarn or string through the hole and tie a knot. Write something you are grateful for on one leaf a day, then hang on the branches and grow your gratitude tree!

    Here to Serve IS Grateful!
    Here to Serve is grateful for the privilege of coming alongside families who have a child battling cancer. We are grateful for our donors, volunteers, and the goodness that surrounds us. This November, as we look toward a Thanksgiving that will not mirror any of the past, we are grateful that we are safe and that this pandemic allowed us to change our service delivery model to offer our program of support nationwide. 

    Please join us to help families who need extra support by donating whatever time and resources you are inspired to provide. Remember, you don’t give “to” Here to Serve, you give “through” Here to Serve to the families who need us most. Please, kindly, spread the word to families who could use assistance from Here to Serve. We are Here to Serve! Finally, here is a link to an inspiring, short video of living a grateful life and overcoming life’s challenges.

    By Amanda Enciso

    Cancer Parents Recognized During National Family Caregivers Month

    Cancer parents holding child

    As a parent, you are always a caregiver to your child throughout their childhood. However, when your child is diagnosed with cancer, this is a different kind of caregiving and certainly not what a parent plans for. It is grueling, physically, and emotionally exhausting, and takes you to a higher calling, or it takes you out! 

    As a cancer parent you become part of a team of caregivers that includes care professionals who facilitate your child’s life-saving treatment.  You navigate this journey one step at a time hoping your next step is not a land mine. You are your child’s advocate who knows them best, including what their needs are. Your child looks to you for confidence, assurance, and comfort because they are scared and confused, even if they can’t communicate those feelings. Many responsibilities consume a caregiver’s energy during this uncertain time, from meeting with doctors, administering your child’s medication, deciding on treatment, drug choices with varying side effects, soothing your child during treatment, and putting a hot meal on the dinner table each night. All these tasks and more will increase your growing stress level. 

    Add to this the anxiety and uncertainty of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Many childhood cancer parents wonder if there is a way to cope and, also do everything right for your child. Relief just a phone call, or email away. Your support system runs deeper than you think; you do not have to go through this alone. Here to Serve, can be part of your support team, if you seek us out. Here to Serve’s mission is to support caregivers of pediatric cancer patients.

    November is National Family Caregivers Month. In 1994 the National Family Caregivers Association began the drive for recognition of family caregivers. President Bill Clinton signed the proclamation for the first National Family Caregivers Month in 1997, and this tradition has continued each year. In a 2020 report conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), it is estimated that over 20% of Americans are caregivers to adults or children with acute needs. Caregivers face each day not knowing what uncertainties lie ahead. The National Family Caregivers Month helps shine a spotlight and raise awareness on issues facing family caregivers. It also promotes the opportunity to celebrate the efforts of family caregivers and the daily sacrifices they make. 

    It is important to remember the caregiver for a child with cancer is usually a parent, but it can also include others, a grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, neighbor, and family or friends. As unique as each pediatric cancer patient is, so too are the caregivers that support them. So, it is necessary to recognize these unsung heroes who volunteer their time and energy to help. 

    Family caregivers must remain aware they are only human, and be mindful of their limitations. The Caregivers Action Network is an organization working to improve the quality of life for more than 50 million American family caregivers; their website has information beneficial to the family caregiver’s well-being. Family caregivers of pediatric cancer patients should take comfort that even in the darkest hours when fear and uncertainty set in, they are not going into this fight alone. Family caregivers should always remember these tips:

    • Be willing to receive help from organizations that offer assistance not just in finances but wrap-around support. Put Here to Serve should be top of your list!
    • Seek out support from other caregivers who have been through what you are going through; they understand and can offer advice.
    • Be open to receive help from others and suggest specific ways they can help you and your child. Here to Serve helps by making this easy and comfortable as they act as the intermediary.
    • Remember to focus on your health, learn relaxation techniques, or use exercise to relieve stress.
    • Organize your child’s medical information so that it’s up to date and easy to access.
    • Caregiving is a difficult job; give yourself credit for doing the best you can.

    At Here to Serve, we want to take the time to recognize the caregivers of the childhood cancer patients we support. We honor their commitment and dedication through challenging decisions and sacrifices made during their child’s cancer fight. They genuinely do their best to make a trying time as positive as it can be. And we want to let all family caregivers know that we are here to assist. We can provide resources, guidance, and advice for pediatric cancer family caregivers not only during National Family Caregivers Month but every day of the year.

    By Chris Smith

    Kids with Cancer Can Celebrate Halloween, Here’s How…

    The joy on the face of a child as they strut about in their costume collecting candy door-to-door on Halloween is often lost on families with children coping with a cancer diagnosis and treatment. More often, parents of cancer kids are stressed, worried and focused on what they can do to save their child’s life and long for the time when they can bring their child back to “normal life.” Making time for some traditions like Halloween can help both the child and the parent take their mind off the challenge of cancer, at least for a time.

    In case you ask yourself how to celebrate Halloween during these unprecedented times, we have some ideas to celebrate Halloween with your child in the hospital or even at home:

    • Dress up in a comfortable easy costume, if appropriate. Make it a fun project to decorate one or more masks.
    • Have a Halloween movie night together.
    • Use orange strips of construction paper to make a gratitude chain for decorating the room.
    • Create a virtual Halloween party with friends
    • Make gratitude pumpkins with strips of orange and green construction paper, a hole punch and fastener. Write what they are grateful for on the strips.
    • String together orange, purple and black beads for Halloween bracelets.

    There are many benefits of doing crafts with children in the hospital. Not only does it make for sweet bonding time, it encourages kids to do things that improve hand-eye coordination, and helps them strengthen their cognitive abilities, which are often affected during treatment.

    And that is just one side of the story. We cannot forget the siblings coping with their fear and sadness as their brother or sister struggles in a hospital. As if cancer weren’t enough, the added fear and restrictions of Covid-19 takes it over the top. With traditional trick or treating off the table, it is time to come up with creative ways to keep things as “normal” as possible and celebrate Halloween this year.

    Here are some ideas for the siblings who may not be able to visit their brother or sister at the hospital during Covid-19:

    • Create a Halloween hunt for treats in the backyard for your little ones to fill up their pumpkin baskets.
    • Dress up in costumes and have a photo shoot.
    • Carve pumpkins, bake goodies and watch Halloween movies
    • Create a virtual Halloween party with friends.
    • Check out the drive through haunted houses in your area.

    While you navigate the journey through cancer and Covid-19, Here to Serve hopes you can find quality moments and smiles with your loved ones during Halloween and always. Here to Serve is grateful to be able to help families receive support during their journey to ease stress and lighten burdens. If you or someone you know has a child recently diagnosed with cancer, please tell them about Here to Serve. If you are inspired to donate to help us help those families, please follow this donation link. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Happy Halloween!

    By Amanda Enciso

    Physical Activity During Childhood Cancer, Does It Have to End?

    Bryan runningThe crack of a baseball bat hitting a ball on a warm summer day, the smell of fresh-cut grass on a soccer field as your son or daughter runs down the turf trying to score the winning goal, these are the dreams and hopes of many parents for their child. But for parents of children battling cancer, physical activities either are on hold for an extended period, or never happen for their child. The hope and prayer of every parent after a life-or-death cancer diagnosis is that their child will survive and will have the opportunity to run, laugh, and play as they did before their cancer diagnosis.

    Here to Serve Founder Katie Quintas shares, “my son had to stop all contact sports when he was diagnosed with Stage IV at age 16. At that time, he was on a regional water polo team, and his high school’s varsity golf team. He could not play water polo because it is a contact sport and requires a lot of stamina, but was able to continue to play golf, just not on his high school’s team because he could not walk the course. Many golf courses allowed him to play for free and gave him a cart because of his diagnosis.”

    This is National Health Education Week and The American Cancer Society recommends that children and adolescents take part in 60 minutes of modest to strong physical activity (running, sports play, etc.) at least five days per week to build a healthy lifestyle. But for children who are in cancer treatment, that is not always possible. Once you become a cancer survivor, living healthily carries even more significance. For some young cancer survivors, health issues due to cancer or the after-effects of treatment can add to the importance of being physically active. Katie Quintas shares, “my son is very conscious of his health, working out 6 days a week. He has a gym membership and eats healthier than many trainers. He knows that his life expectancy has been compromised by his treatments, but he does everything he can to improve the quality and quantity of his life. He did not start his workout regimen until almost three years after treatments ended. It took him that long to rebuild his immune system and stamina.”

    A study conducted by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and presented at the 2018 Cancer
    Survivorship Symposium determined that it is crucial for young cancer survivors to be physically active; research has shown that childhood cancer survivors are at an increased risk of obesity and other health issues.

    The positive benefits of regular activity and exercise can include the following:

    •  Stimulates the healing of tissues and organs from damage done during treatment
    • Increases the body’s strength and flexibility
    • Reduces risk for illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure
    • Promotes strong and healthy bones
    • Improves mental health
    • Provides children with meaningful social interactions

    As with any regular activity and exercise, it is vital to first speak with your child’s doctor before starting any exercise program. Each child recovers from cancer differently, so check with your doctor to determine if modifications are necessary before beginning any physical activities.

    And just as baseball, basketball, or volleyball teams start a new season slowly, practicing each day to build teamwork and strength, it’s essential to start any new activities off gradually and build up endurance. Doing so can prevent physical injuries and mental fatigue. Be aware of your child’s physical and emotional well-being, as they may become frustrated that they cannot perform the same way they did before their diagnosis. Often, with time, your child will be back on the field, hearing your cheers from the sidelines again, as you build new memories together.

    If you know a child who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, give their parents a much-needed resource to help them through the journey, Here to Serve. They are here to provide tangible help with home activities, resources, guidance and advice for parents on a journey they never imagined they would have to take with their child. Please click here to contact Here to Serve, or click here to find out more.

    By Chris Smith

    Chris Vega was an athlete and runner before he was diagnosed with cancer.  He always intended to continue running. His last and most important race was won at the gates of heaven.