By Meredith Izlar, Program Director, Me Fine Foundation
Anything worth having is worth waiting for. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
These are a couple of the mantras I held tightly onto for my first two years as Me Fine Foundation’s part-time Family Assistance Coordinator.
During these two years, I talked with parents who spent weeks in and out of hospital rooms with their children; I listened to their fears about the present as well as the future. I interviewed hospital staff and took down their wish lists in pages of notes: teen support groups, programs for siblings, outreach for overwhelmed parents. And for two years, I saw the wider community as well — supporters energized about our mission and eager to serve, ready to give generously of their time and talent (and toys!).
But I didn’t have a way to channel the outpouring of support to the families who needed it.
Over this time, I spent hours alongside Jaclyn Starritt, Me Fine board member and child psychologist, brainstorming a myriad of ways that people could get involved with Me Fine’s emotional support programs in the hospitals. “Who wouldn’t want to throw a Christmas In July carnival for in-patient children?”, we asked ourselves. “Who wouldn’t get excited about new programs to help siblings cope with their brother or sister’s illness?” Still, we didn’t have a framework for how all of the pieces would fit together. How could we coordinate the efforts of multiple volunteers on multiple projects at multiple hospitals, all in ways that were meaningful and fed back to Me Fine’s mission?
In the end, growth happened the way it always does — in a series of stutters, false starts, and revised efforts that eventually becomes a big step forward.
Now as a full-time staff member, I have the time to invest in a coordinated effort of volunteers to meet our families’ psychosocial emotional needs. I’m pleased to share that we held our first meeting of the new-and-improved Emotional Support Programs Committee on February 16! The committee will field requests from hospital staff, coordinate special events, and develop innovative approaches to the challenges families face while a child is treated for critical or chronic illness. Our team includes several board members, two child psychologists, a parent of a child with critical illness, a retired pediatrician, and nearly a dozen other community members passionate about supporting kids and families.
As we discussed our plan for the year, I felt a new mantra take shape: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Although the process of creating this group felt Herculean at times, it’s the first step towards our greater goal: increasing our impact on the children and families struggling with critical or chronic illness every day. The enthusiasm and combined talents of this incredible group of people, working together, truly have the capacity to transform lives. I’m grateful to each of them for their willingness to get involved more deeply with our work.