Currently, one of the collaborative relationships Med City Foundation has in Rochester is with Brighter Tomorrows. One of the primary benefits from this relationship is using each other for referrals. If someone contacts the Med City Foundation with a child who has cancer, they are referred to Brighter Tomorrows and if someone over 21 years old contacts Brighter Tomorrows, they are referred to the Med City Foundation. The Med City Foundation’s annual Holiday Drive is also opened to Brighter Tomorrows so parents who are seeking help from Brighter Tomorrows can pick up toys and gifts for their children. In this blog post, we’ll look into Brighter Tomorrows and the work the organization does in the Rochester community.
In 1998, Sherrie Decker’s daughter, Shanna, was hospitalized for a year with bone cancer.
This bone cancer led to an eventual leg amputation and lung removal. Shanna is a survivor, and now is living a happy and fulfilling life, but not all cancer patients have the same fate. Over the years, Sherrie met other families in the community struggling with cancer and the burdens that come with the diagnosis. Sherrie and three other mothers who had children with cancer banded together in 2007 and founded Brighter Tomorrows. Brighter Tomorrows is a non-profit organization and is located in Rochester Minnesota. Brighter Tomorrows works to provide emotional, spiritual, and educational support by listening to, understanding, and supporting families touched by childhood cancer.
Currently, Sherrie Decker and Liz Canan, two of the original founding members are still involved with Brighter Tomorrows. Sherrie was the president of the organization for four years until she stepped down, leaving Liz Canan as the current president. The board consists of eight members, seven voting members and one advisory full-time undergraduate who had childhood cancer. Sherrie emphasizes that each member of the board has unique talents and skills that they bring to the organization which causes it to thrive.
Sherrie works in family-to-family relations and is able to interact first-hand with individuals as soon as families find out their child is diagnosed with cancer. The brochure for Brighter Tomorrows is the first thing the family sees in the Mayo Clinic packet of information that their physician hands them upon diagnosis. The physician tells them to call Brighter Tomorrows for support, or sometimes the physician will notify Brighter Tomorrows on behalf of the family. When Sherrie receives the call, she immediately goes to meet the family, whether it is at a hotel, the Rochester Ronald McDonald House, the clinic or hospital. She brings a Family Care Kit for them which consists of a soft sided cooler designed to transport medications which need to be kept cool, snacks, gas and grocery gift cards, essential toiletries, parking passes, and some other helpful items. Sherrie mentions that many times, a family comes to Rochester for an appointment, but after the cancer diagnosis, they have to stay for a few weeks or months for treatment. The Family Care Kit helps to alleviate some of the initial burden and stress the family might feel. Since Sherrie has a child who had cancer, she understands the process and how surprising and frightening it can be for families, so she says her main role is to provide comfort, support, and a listening ear. Sherrie says that being a resource and always being present for the family is one of the most rewarding parts of her position at Brighter Tomorrows, and it is so meaningful that she is able to provide comfort to newly diagnosed children and families.
Brighter Tomorrows not only provides Family Care Kits during that devastating first week of the diagnosis, but also plans activities and monthly meetings for the members of Brighter Tomorrows. Sherrie estimates about seventy to one hundred individuals attend the monthly meetings where the children are able to be together and participate in activities while parents are able to talk to one another and speak with professionals. Brighter Tomorrows also puts on events for the children, such as bowling, movie nights, and a yearly retreat for a few days which are all free of charge to foster the relationships between the children and their families. Perhaps the best part is that Brighter Tomorrows stays with the family, providing resources, from diagnosis through remission, providing as many resources as possible.
In terms of growth, Brighter Tomorrows plans on expanding their current program entitled “Tomorrow’s Chapter,” which focuses on families who have lost their child to cancer. In addition, they plan to provide free family and marital counseling for families. The financial burden can become so great that counseling is out of reach for these families. Finally, Sherrie plans on helping Brighter Tomorrows create a branch of the organization dedicated entirely to the siblings of the child with cancer. Sherrie says that siblings are often times forgotten or receive little attention due to the chaos of their sibling’s hospital visits, transplants, surgeries, and treatments. Brighter Tomorrows plans on creating a division focusing specifically on siblings and how they feel and where all of the attention is put on them. Through these expansions, Brighter Tomorrows hopes to continue their mission of providing support to children with cancer and their families and demonstrate care and understanding to those individuals.
You can learn more about Brighter Tomorrows on their website: http://brightertomorrowshope.org/