In September 2016, my Soulful Flow Yoga class started donating class proceeds to different charities. Our fundraising has become part of our mission to heal others. In February 2016, we began our fundraising relationship with CCChampions, a nonprofit that helps children diagnosed with cancer.

In October 2016, I met founder Sidney Kushner and “friendship champion” Coy Thompson at a mindfulness workshop.

“We work with children who are diagnosed with cancer in the Pittsburgh area,” explained Sidney.

After losing his childhood friend, Lauren, to cancer, Sidney struggled to find a way that would honor his friend’s memory. Then Sidney met Jenny, a bright 9-year-old diagnosed with cancer. When they met, Jenny had just finished a grueling round of unsuccessful chemotherapy. She was terrified as the doctors prepared her for a bone marrow transplant.

Noticing her discomfort, Sidney asked Jenny, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Her eyes brightened as she exclaimed, “I WANNA BE A DANCER!”

Sidney and Jenny became friends, and CCChampions was born.

Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly. – Lorraine K. Mitchell

cancer, healing, children

Photo courtesy CCChampions

As a child who survived a serious illness, I was profoundly touched by Sidney’s story and his organization. I remembered the fears, uncertainties, pain and frustration these kids face daily. Despite everyone’s best intentions, medical professionals can sometimes slip into focusing on the logistics of “treating the disease” rather than “treating the person with the disease.”

During their treatment, these children are in survival mode. They might be confused, anxious or depressed. They might receive invasive treatments that can be scarier than the disease. While hospitalized or under treatment, they might feel isolated from their friends, school and everyday life.

Stuck to a bed or exhausted, these children slowly morph from “just being a kid” to “being a person with cancer.” Once in remission, these kids may wonder if the cancer will return. They might feel they are different from the person they were “before cancer.” The illness has subtly changed them, and they want to feel “normal” again.

CCChampions helps break this negative cycle by focusing on the future. They ask each child what they want to be when they grow up, and match them with adult role models. These adult heroes befriend these children and their families, introducing them to wonder, and most importantly, normalcy. These boys and girls become kids again.

  • They are still Jenny, Lauren, Aiden and Avery. They are still Angelika, Chris, Katie and Anna.

    cancer, healing, children

    Photo courtesy CCChampions

  • They are kids who to like to play games, color, paint their nails, and create Duck Tape art.
  • They are kids who dream of playing catch with a professional baseball player or hitting the ice with a hockey player.
  • They are kids who want to design video games or become police officers.

Most importantly, these are kids whose well-being and dreams are more important than a diagnosis.

From the time they are diagnosed until a year after their treatment ends, these kids have a friend to support them and their families. Their heroes with them for the successes, uncertainties, and challenges. These role models remind them that there’s much more to life than intravenous drips, blood counts, and endless tests. These heroes give children and their families hope, fulfill some of their dreams, and most importantly, provide friendship, love and support.

Want to Help?

If you would like to help CCChampions, you can donate to via their website. Your funds will help this organization recruit heroes for children still waiting for a “friendship.” With your help, CCChampions hopes to expand to other cities! To learn more about this growing and nationally-recognized organization, read about them here.

Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.
― Roy T. BennettThe Light in the Heart