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Hanging up the phone with my friend, I felt a loss. Do you have those days when you feel kicked in the gut by a simple phrase? Today’s phrase: It is cancer.
Sitting down, I tried to process the immediate grief and anger I felt after hearing that another friend has a child with cancer. A daughter. A sweet curly brown haired 4 year old girl whose biggest mission in life was to keep up with her siblings. After processing a bit, I turned toward figuring out what I could do and how to talk about it with my kids.
This post kicks off a series of service projects focused on helping individuals and families going through chemotherapy.
Posts in the Series
Chemo Care Kit for Kids (you are here now)
Delivering Chemo Care Kits for Kids (coming soon)
Comfort Items to Give Chemo Patients
Coordinating with a Hospital or Clinic for Service Projects
Note from Sheila: Since the publication of this article, over 10,000 Chemo care Kits for Kids have been donated across the world by families, community groups, and scout troops. That goodness has been done by YOU! Thank you! Thank you for helping the kids in your world learn to be kind to others and thank you for making these kids, which do brighten a child’s day. Your efforts are worth it!
After working on this service project for several months, gathering input from REAL moms fighting alongside their children to beat cancer, I found that this project’s value comes through:
1) It is something of value that can be done by those that care about kids experiencing cancer. This project removes the feelings powerlessness and empowers friends and loved ones to help. Although this project can’t cure anyone, it provides an avenue to to show that they cared, and
2) This project TEACHES our families, our children, what it can be like to go through chemotherapy by using the experience to learn about the side effects.
Over the past 6 months, we have reached out to families that are battling cancer. We drew feedback from parents on what would be helpful for their child when going through chemotherapy. The items you see suggested are all intended to provide some comfort.
To pilot this, we made 70 Chemo Care Kits for Kids! No, I am not kidding. An amazing project!
We worked with 6 other families and collected enough supplies to assemble kits, our goal was 30 kits. With the donations, we gathered 7 kids (ages 3-8) from our families and put together the kits.
We laid out the supplies in three sections on tables by group:
- Items to help with side effects
- Comfort items
- Activity items
With our kids, we started the service project by talking about each type of item and why it would be helpful for a child going through chemotherapy. Several of these kids have friends going through chemotherapy, and it is important that they understand why their friend can’t play right now or may be experiencing some crazy things with their bodies.
Each kid decided to put together a kit for a boy, girl, or it didn’t matter. From there, each one gathered the appropriate items for the kit.
In 30 minutes, the kids had put together 70 Chemo Care Kits for Kids ready for delivery! It went so quickly and smoothly. They rocked it! We totally more than doubled reaching our goal of 30. How awesome to have so much support from our friends in helping us with this project. Thank you! Special Thanks to the M Family, W Family, GMac Family, D Family, the R family, and the A family! You are the best!
****The day after we made the kits, the kids started distributing them to local hospitals and clinics that treat children with cancer. I am including those experiences in a different post as there are tips to communicating with potential donation sites that I need to share with you. (post coming soon)
Not everyone experiences chemotherapy with the same side effects. If you are making a Chemo Care Kit for a specific child, reach out to that family and ask what would be helpful. What you will find here is information we gathered from parents AND clinics that help kids through the chemotherapy process.
What is in the Kit?
I’ve put the list of items in a free printable that you can print off and take with you shopping. NOTE: Before you go shopping, locate an oncology unit that would like to receive this kits first. When doing that, share with them the items on the list that you want to include. If they have any issues with the items, they can let you know FIRST before you go out and buy a bunch of stuff.
Why the items in the Kit?
I’ve put a simple explanation in this free printable so that you can print and have with you to reference, maybe during a family time when you assemble the kits together. It is a one page document that describes the general side effects of chemotherapy and how the items in the kit will be helpful.
Sign up below to receive 2 FREE Printables, each are 1 page to print.
*Subscribing also means that we will share with you new resources from Pennies of Time! YAY! Families can always use more resources!
Can Pennies of Time deliver the kits or send me a list of hospitals that want them?
No, Pennies of Time does not deliver kits developed by other groups.
Based on how specific needs can be different for oncology units: No, we do not have an approved list. My suggestion would be to contact a couple in your area with the idea of this project before investing money into buying supplies. If you do a search for “pediatric oncology” units and nothing comes up, try “cancer and blood disorder” center or “pediatric hematology” units. If you currently know of a child going through chemotherapy, you can start with that unit since there is a personal connection.
IMPORTANT: Find a location that will accept the kits first, then go shopping.
Tips for the Kit
- For each kit include: 5 Items to Help with Side Effects plus an activity and/or comfort item (you can always add both an activity and a comfort item)
- Buy travel-sized items.
- Plan to budget approximately $1 for each item. The comfort and activity items seem to range in price from $3-$5. Most kits we put together cost less than $12.
- Focus kits for a specific group (age range and gender: boy, girl, or either)
- Make sure all the items in each kit are age appropriate for the same age range. (For example: cozy size-1 Spiderman slippers would be a mix-match with nail polish.)
In addition, a nice note or drawing from your children adds a meaningful element. It gives the chance for your child to share encouragement to another child or family that is going through a difficult time.
You can make several of the items, such as the comfort items.
How many kits should our family make?
A great aspect about this project is you get to decide. Whether you choose to make 1 kit or 6 kits, your efforts in teaching your children and in giving a special kit full of helping items to someone else will make a difference. No wrong or right answer on this one.
What do I put the stuff in to make it look like a kit?
Depending on the size of the items you choose, the following will work quite well:
- Gift bag
- Gallon Zip-lock bag (this is what we did and I’ll share the printable in an upcoming post)
- Cellophane bag (found at party supply stores)
- Shoe-box sized plastic tote (great for kits that have reusable activities included)
For more information:
List of Common Side Effects from the CureSearch for Children’s Cancer
The 2 Free Printables: Chemo Care Kit for Kids (each 1 page)
The first time we put together a Chemo Care Kit: