Forest Companion Magazine
By Jessica Ayala
Tell us about Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas? How long has it been active and what is
Cancer is the #1 disease killer of children in the Carolinas, attacking over 600 more children every year. One in five will not survive, but the children of rural or poor families are three times more likely to be misdiagnosed, under-treated and die. There are very few places that treat children – just six in NC, just three in SC … none have all the treatments and many children must go to New York, Houston, or beyond for specialized care. An extraordinary organization helping children battling cancer all across North and South Carolina, CCP was started back in 2001 as a local service project in Spartanburg, SC, and helped 100 families across its first 14 years. Then it was “discovered” by a distant philanthropic couple who challenged the organization to do more with a major, multi-year gift. Since then, in just 3½ years, it has grown from one county to 146 (entire Carolinas) and from 20 children to nearly 1,000 today, providing families with support for treatment, transportation, lodging, meals, and essential home-care. If financial burdens overwhelm families, CCP helps avoid evictions, repossessions, insurance cancellations. If the battle is lost, CCP helps with funeral expenses and grief counseling – as it did 50 times in 2019.
When did you join the board of this organization and what drew you to the cause?
I joined the Board of Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas in 2018 after being contacted by Laura Allen. Laura and I were friends in Nashville, TN, for many years. We were both very involved in many community organizations together, especially the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt where we both worked in the Development office. Laura moved to Spartanburg, SC, and is the Executive Director of Carolina Cancer Partners of the Carolinas. Her enthusiasm for the organization, it’s mission and focus are contagious. She has an overwhelming making a difference desire to help the children in NC and SC who have been given a cancer diagnosis and their families. The organization and its outreach have grown tremendously and helped so many. This board was a natural fit for me. I am so proud to be part of their mission.
Who does the organization serve and how do they give back to them?
Children ages birth to through age 18 are referred to CCP by pediatric oncology treatment centers at the time they are received every month – 48 in December alone. CCP responds immediately, arranging within 24 hours an in-person meeting with each family, providing emotional, logistical, and financial support so they know they are not alone on their terrifying journey. The support is comprehensive – whatever is necessary to ensure timely and complete access to care for the child, and it is continuous throughout the journey to age 21 since many children experience debilitating late-effects even after becoming cancer-free. CCP holds peer-support events throughout the year, connecting families to overcome their isolation, including a three-day residential Camp Victory each spring for the whole family and giant Christmas parties in Raleigh and Spartanburg.