How You Can Help Other Children Like Charlie

Many want to help British baby Charlie Gard. What about the sick child in your own neighborhood?

By Liberty McArtor Published on July 21, 2017

British baby Charlie Gard has sparked passionate debates on everything from health care to the rights of parents. Last week The Stream asked a pro-life activist close to Charlie’s family how people could help them. She suggested signing this petition or voicing support on social media. But what about the family dealing with child illness in your own church, city, or neighborhood?

Over 15,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of others suffer chronic, serious and life threatening illnesses. Such experiences can turn a family’s life upside down, even years after their child recovers.

While the world waits to hear Charlie’s fate, here are simple ways you can help sick children and their families:

1. Volunteer with Local Organizations Helping the Families

When a child is seriously ill, his or her parents are stressed and often in need of a lot of practical help. You can help ease the pressure on families.

One famous organization that helps families in this way is Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). Volunteers with RMHC can work in Ronald McDonald Houses or Family Rooms. These services provide home-like environments for families traveling for their children’s health care. Learn more about your local RMHC chapter and other volunteer opportunities.

Many other groups help families in other ways. For example, the Pediatric Angel Network provides financial and other aid to families struggling to pay for their sick child’s care. Search the web for many more.

Nancy Hollenkamp, co-founder of the Aubrey Rose Foundation, suggests volunteering for local events benefiting families with sick children, like fund-raisers. Research what kind of volunteer work is a good fit for you, she told The Stream.

2. Donate Money or Useful Items

Donating money is important, Hollenkamp said. Sometimes it’s hard to reach the families as they travel for treatment. If an organization is already supporting the family you want to help, donate through that organization.

Your local children’s hospital or pregnancy center may also collect items for families caring for sick children. Call or check online to see if they accept care packages, diapers, clothing, or other things. They can also direct you to local groups helping these families.

3. Support Local Families, But Be Specific

There may be families in your church, school district or neighborhood dealing with difficult child illness that you could bless directly.

“Be specific on what you are going to do for that family,” Hollenkamp suggests. Answering the vague “what can I do to help?” question can exhaust parents who are already stretched thin. Decide what you are going to do for the family and let them know. Tell them you’ll cook a meal and ask when they want you to bring it. Clean their house or mow the lawn. Offer to give them rides or take care of their other children.

If you can’t offer that kind of help, give them gift cards to local restaurants or the grocery store. And always pray for them and let them you know you’re praying.

To find out about local families in need, contact your pastor or priest. For more ideas, read Dr. Karin Luise’s “15 Dos and Don’ts for Helping a Friend With a Sick Child in the Hospital.”

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