FGP From the Inside: Week 6

Lisa Mendelow serves on our board as the DC Coordinator

As a single person with no kids living in urban DC, there was a much better chance of my getting involved at a nearby homeless shelter, tutoring inner city kids, donating clothes... or doing a myriad of other city dweller-type volunteer activities. Sure, I gave some time or money here and there, because I do feel strongly about contributing to my surrounding community and making a difference. 

But then a year ago the unexpected happened... and has continued to happen ever since, in ways both agonizingly beautiful and heart-rending: A little girl in my neighborhood, whose parents I knew only peripherally was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer just after her first birthday. BOMBSHELL, to say the least. Then the next surprise: I fell in love with this child and her family and came to know them and others like them through the wonderful world of blogs. I still can't say what the pull was, but something in me was drawn to reach out and give of myself in a way beyond just feeling obliged to be a good citizen of the world. This was REAL to me and yet, short of volunteering at a hospital, running a race or raising money for research, what could I REALLY do to make a difference? 

Cue unexpected item #3: Finding FGP, an organization based an hour away from the gritty city, in bucolic Fredericksburg, VA. 

I learned of FGP on a family's blog and reached out to Andie right away. At the time, she and Stephanie were pretty much the only volunteers, driven by their own passion and determination, but ready to accept any help one was willing to give. I dug in right away, helping with a new logo, working directly with a family in Alexandria, working on the new website and putting together a training session for new volunteers. And in between, Andie and I would spend literally hours on the phone bouncing ideas around for ways to grow this little grassroots operation. Throughout, I've been just astounded at the capacity for kindness I've witnessed, whether it be Andie and Stephanie -- two people whose lives weren't directly touched by cancer, who literally pour their hearts and souls into this cause -- or the mom of "my family" -- who, despite being a single parent with a sick child, still finds it in her to give her own time to help less fortunate single moms.

When I first connected with FGP, I had no idea it was possible to make a direct impact in such a short time, and most importantly, to continually learn from and be inspired by these new friends. Yes, the pain of seeing little ones and their families suffer is beyond unbearable, but it just fuels even more of a desire to make things at least just a little easier for them. I guess it's no wonder, then, that FGP has grown by leaps and bounds. After all, when you're driven by passion, what else can you expect?!

Would you like to witness the capacity for kindness in those involved with FGP? Email us at volunteers@fairygodmotherproject.org! 

FGP From the Inside: Week 5 and a Half

Erin Kessel serves on our board as an Assistant Director

I have the distinct privilege of being related to FGP’s own Andie McConnell!  And although I have more than 35 first cousins, I can honestly say that I adore my cousin Andie (Andrea as I know her).  So, last year, when Andie sent out information regarding Journey 4 A Cure's Vote4aCure contest, I felt compelled to vote.  And that is when my eyes were opened to the world of pediatric cancer. 

I work in a rather business-oriented, non-emotional field of the law.  Like some of our other board members, FGP fills a void in my life.  To know we are truly making a difference in the lives of families who are so deserving is the BEST feeling.  And so I do what I can to help my cousin, help FGP, and help these families. 

Perhaps my motives for joining FGP are selfish, but I can honestly say that I envy Andie – to see the fulfillment FGP has given her life and how passionate she is about the families and the mission, are understatements.  And if I can have just a fraction of the same fulfillment, I’ll take it.

Interested in filling a void in your life by making a difference in the lives of pediatric cancer families? Join us! Email volunteer@fairygodmotherproject.org

FGP From the Inside: Week 5

Our series From the Inside took a few weeks rest but is back now! Here is another inside look from our Director of Programs, Andie McConnell. 
On Monday, we will hear from board member, Erin Kessel and Friday from DC Coordinator and board member, Lisa Mendelow. Stay tuned!

Often when I am in meetings with potential volunteers or  donors or when I am talking to friends or family, I am asked the same 2 questions about FGP.  I thought it might be worth an explanation here for those who might have just found us!

1. How did you even get involved in this?
Pediatric cancer seemed to be a recurring theme in my life. Thankfully, none of my family members have had it but I repeatedly learned of children with it.  I never had a connection to a child with cancer but repeatedly to family members of one which is why our mission focuses on the families.
In 2002, I taught a sweet little girl whose older brother had brain cancer. I remember that little girl so well and the sadness in her face, how quiet and reserved she was about all that was going on in her life and I remember her loving parents.  Parents who were facing the worst but still made it in for conferences for their healthy child. I remember their concern over her getting lost in the shuffle because of all that was going on in their family and their struggles because their extended family was states away through all of this. Then, in 2003, there was the neighbor in Phoenix whose son survived brain cancer and she shared how people they expected to support them disappeared and those that they didn't expect to support them were their biggest supporters. Then in 2009, I met Jill and, I can honestly say, my whole world changed. You can read all about that here.  When I surveyed families facing pediatric cancer, I realized the need for family support wasn't just in the families I had met, but in any family facing pediatric cancer. It was then that I decided that I needed to do what I hoped someone would do for me if one of my children was diagnosed with cancer.

2.Isn't it depressing doing what you do?
I can honestly say no. I think in lots of ways life can be depressing. I mean really: there is illness, sadness, death and grief all around us, but there is also joy, laughter, love and friendship. Working with FGP families is the same thing. There are aspects of it that are, of course, sad but there is so much joy in helping others, knowing that we are brightening the days of parents facing one of the worst imaginable scenarios and that there are volunteers out there who are feeling like they have made a difference because of FGP. What is depressing about that? Nothing. The reality is that cancer is everywhere. 46 children a day are diagnosed. We can either cringe and hide from that stat or know that we are doing what we can to take away a bit of stress as those families face the reality of their children's diagnoses. I choose the latter.

Number 3 often comes via email.

3. I have a friend who has cancer and she is the mother to 3 little ones and they could really use help. Can you provide them with some?(or some similar story)
This question always pulls at our heartstrings. I know our Photography Director has been faced by this question on a few occasions as well. The answer is we would LOVE to help, but we simply can't. We have a mission that we follow that was developed because of our inspiration and we have to stick to it. The one time we make an exception, the flood gates will open. We are trying to be fair and focused. I know this lets some people down and I am truly sorry for that. There is so much need and sadness in our world that if we didn't focus on one need, we would be overwhelmed with requests and not have the resources to meet the needs of families facing pediatric cancer.

Andie McConnell is our Director of Programs. If you have questions for her or are interested in volunteering, please email andie@fairygodmotherproject.org .