MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minnesota — A Twin Cities-based nonprofit is helping children understand and cope with a parent's cancer diagnosis.
The Angel Foundation offers a play pack designed to emotionally support families.
"Here are the ports, and like, there you can take them off, and then you can stick them to Rory." Hattie Scaglia is describing her stuffed lion and his unique accessories, including chemo ports. They're not your typical toys, but for children whose parents have cancer, they can help kids learn.
"It's easy to realize that our mom has the same thing on her body," Hattie said.
The stuffed lion is part of an "Angel Pack" from the Angel Foundation. Since 2001, the nonprofit has offered relief through financial assistance, education and emotional and social support programs.
The packs have been part of that initiative for nearly a decade. The new and improved packs are created for children ages 4 - 9. There are 30 interactive items that provide evidence-based solutions to the challenges surrounding the understanding of cancer.
Simply put, the kit teaches kids about cancer terminology and walks through what happens during cancer treatment.
Hattie's mom, Emily, wondered how to explain her condition. She battled breast cancer during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"They were only 4 and 7 when I was diagnosed. So try explaining that to kids," Emily said. "Where do you start?"
The Angel Pack helped Emily navigate not only her journey but her children's, too. "It helped them understand that my treatments might make me look different, and they might make me feel different."
In addition to Rory the lion, the pack includes emotion magnets and a daily calendar.
"Because typically the first thing once [children] find out that their parent has a cancer diagnosis, they tend to kind of lose a sense of control. So having a set schedule throughout the day is definitely a good thing for kids," said Naomi Moturi, adult and family program manager at the Angel Foundation. "There's also the 'How can I help?' So it's a tool that's used for kids to be able to help their parent in any way that they may need."
The pack's activities helped Hattie and her brother Logan learn that children can make a difference. "Like when she felt really sore from her surgeries, we just helped her," recalled Hattie.
"Most importantly, I think it helps you understand that you aren't alone. There are other kids going through the same thing," Emily added.
Angel packs are free for parents and caregivers in the Twin Cities metro, as well as Sherburne County. You can also get an Angel pack through oncology offices or at their website.
Angel Foundation programs include:
The backbone of Angel Foundation’s mission: grants for basic, non-medical living expenses such as housing payments, food, utilities and fuel costs.
Angel Foundation offers free, family-friendly programs designed to help kids deal with having a sick parent via social opportunities for fun and peer support and a summer getaway at Camp Angel.
For adults, social gatherings and other informational resource sessions are hosted so they may learn the tools they need to parent through their cancer treatment.
Financial Cancer Care
For many families, the financial burden caused by cancer is overwhelming. Angel Foundation’s Financial Cancer Care program provides financial education designed to decrease anxiety about managing finances so patients can concentrate on their recovery.
Angel Foundation’s Financial Cancer Care program connects Minnesota cancer patients with a social service professional and a Pro Bono Certified Financial Planner through workshops and one-on-one meetings.
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