During the holidays, with all the hustle and bustle and rushing around, it’s easy to lose sight of the true meaning of the season. This is the time of year for counting our blessings, and doing our part for those who struggle.
For those looking to make the holidays a bit merrier for the less-fortunate, opportunities abound. Food banks need supplies, shelters put out the call for warm clothes and toys, gift cards and funds are being collected by various organizations.
Recently in these pages we featured the story of Colin's Crew, a Wallingford-based nonprofit. While Colin’s Crew does selfless work year-round, when the weather turns cold, the organization focuses on its "Adopt a Family” program. This year, Colin's Crew plans to adopt a total of 18 families, each with a child diagnosed with cancer. The families will select gifts online to add to an Amazon Wish List.
Connecticut Children's Medical Center and Yale New Haven Hospital partner with Colin's Crew to connect the donors and the receiving families anonymously.
Heather Westbrook and her husband, Michael, began Colin’s Crew in 2014 after their son Colin's treatments for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Colin’s Crew routinely organizes snack drives in which families and their children donate their favorite snacks and help pack a bag to be donated to an oncology patient. Also, Colin’s Crew spearheads "Meals4kids" and “Fun4kids." Both programs aim to brighten the lives of young cancer patients.
This organization truly makes a difference for families that find themselves under the immense pressure of caring for a sick child.
Leigh Clemens and her husband, Will, can attest to that. The Clemenses’ 9-month-old daughter, Chloe, was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma cancer in June of 2016, and while staying in the hospital, the family received meals and snack bags from Colin's Crew.
Also, when the holidays rolled around, the Clemenses were adopted by Colin's Crew. "We felt like little kids on Christmas," Leigh Clemens said.
This winter, with her cancer in remission, Chloe is out of the hospital. Her family is once again participating in Colin’s Crew’s "Adopt a Family” effort, however. Only this time they are doing so as donors.
As for Colin, he is winning his cancer fight, as well. Diagnosed with leukemia just a few days shy of his second birthday, Colin, now 10, has been in remission for five years and is an active member of his namesake crew. Amazing.
While out shopping in the coming weeks, perhaps we should all keep youngsters like Chole, Colin and their families in mind.