This past fall, my Soulful Flow Yoga class started donating all proceeds to different charities as part of our mission to heal others. For February and March, we are collecting funds for CCChampions, a nonprofit helping children diagnosed with cancer.

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

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

After losing his childhood friend, Lauren, to cancer, Sidney wanted a way to honor his friend’s memory. Then came Jenny. When Sidney met this bright 9 year old, she’d been missing a few months of school. Diagnosed with cancer, Jenny had experienced a grueling round of unsuccessful chemotherapy and was preparing for a bone marrow transplant. She was terrified.

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

Jenny’s eyes lit up as she exclaimed, “I WANNA BE A DANCER!”

In that moment they 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 fear, uncertainty, pain and frustration that 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.”

Meanwhile, the children are in survival mode, facing confusion, invasive treatments that can be scarier than the disease, depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. Stuck to a bed or exhausted, children slowly morph from “just being a kid” to “being a person with cancer.” Once in remission, these kids may subconsciously carry subtle fears (“what if it comes back?”), maybe feeling they aren’t the same people they were “before cancer.”  The illness has changed them in ways they may not fully comprehend, and they want to feel “normal” again – whatever “normal” is.

This is where CCChampions makes a difference. The simple concept of matching a hero to befriend a child breaks the focus on the illness and brings attention back to the child. The hero focuses on the child as a person, providing him or her with a sense of 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 who will be there for them and their families. Their heroes are there through the successes, uncertainties, and challenges, reminding 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 their #MarchtoFriendship Campaign. Your funds will help this organization recruit heroes for children on the waiting list needing a friend. 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