One of the initiatives that we hold dear at Becker is our 501c3, Helping Hands, which allows us to bring toys to children battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases, and bring a smile to their face and to their families for a brief moment in time.
This goes beyond the physical act of handing toys to a child and moving on. These children and their families endure awful pain and psychological terror every day knowing the kids’ illness may be a terminal one. Their entire lives have been reduced to little more than endless hospital visits, shots, chemotherapy, countless operations, etc. without any chance of living out their remaining days as a normal, active child. Very few opportunities for laughter, running around, squealing with their friends, going on family trips, etc. Only those endless, sterile, painful and scary hospital visits, wondering how long they will live. We strive to alleviate some of that pain and bring joy back into their lives, something else that they can focus on during an otherwise stress-filled time.
Helping Hands was started by Shareholder, Lee Weintraub, who had the unfortunate experience of watching his daughter fight against cancer and, while she was too young to fully appreciate the gravity of her illness, Lee and his wife, Gina, fully understood in no uncertain terms. The kids’ families are impacted just as much as the children themselves. Lee and Gina watched as their daughter fought hard for her life (she won, mercifully) and watched as families and kids they met during the numerous hospital stays died around them. The hospital is a very somber environment and all the families staying in these wards constantly think about the prospects of their children dying and little else. Except for the medical costs. There’s always room in their minds for thinking about those and most parents in our public hospitals can barely afford to raise their kids, let alone pay for exorbitant medical expenses. Not enough stress involved in watching your kid fight for his or her life, let’s now add the stress of thinking how you’re going to afford to try and save them. It is a horrible situation for every member of the family and their friends.
In Lee’s own words:
“While my daughter was hospitalized, someone passed out toys to the kids for the holidays and we saw firsthand the incredibly liberating effect this had on everybody. If only for a day, the kids forgot all about their illness, the parents forgot their pain, and the simple toys brought such a diversion that everyone felt like a huge weight had been lifted. For just one day, the kids were kids and the parents and siblings were a family again with no cares in the world and they could revel in the spirit of the holidays just like everyone else. Even more, they realized they weren’t alone in their fight. Some kind person somewhere was actually thinking about them, praying for them, and felt they were important enough to actually take time out of their day to do something special. The toys delivered were not special in and of themselves, but the thought behind them gave everyone renewed strength and determination to keep fighting because someone out there cared and wanted them to persevere. The power of that person’s token gesture cannot be overstated. When my daughter recovered, I vowed to give back to the kids and their families in the same way. Everyone at Becker jumped on board and supported me.”
Where are we now:
Now, 23 years later, Becker volunteers arrange for childhood cartoon heroes to visit children with cancer and other terminal illnesses in area hospitals, foster care facilities, diagnostic centers, and more, on an annual basis. Our professional character costumes include SpongeBob, Elmo, Strawberry Shortcake, Buzz Lightyear, and Scooby Doo, and together with Santa, they deliver high-end items to the kids, most of whose families could not afford these toys on their own. For example, past gifts have included: DVD players, laptops, MP3 players, bicycles, etc. The children and teens are excited to attend the party and make a great day out of it.
We often see parents cry when we arrive, so filled with gratitude to see their kids smiling. The children (even the teens) are over the moon to see the characters. Twice, we have seen children who were diagnosed as paralyzed lift an arm to touch Minnie Mouse, much to the amazement of the medical staff who had not seen those kids move before. We delivered a toy to a girl who was too sick and weak to move and she actually sat up when none of the nursing staff thought she had the strength to do that. This is the kind of good we bring to these families.
Testimonials from volunteers:
“I remember giving a young teenage boy a DVD player and when I passed his room ten minutes later, he and his family were still talking about how incredible it was that he received such a gift.”
“I played Elmo one year and wasn’t able to continue walking down the hall with everyone else because one little 3 or 4 year old child receiving chemotherapy wouldn’t let me go, so I stayed there for ten minutes. The parents watched with tears in their eyes that their child was so happy.”
Please find it within yourselves to give – no matter how much. Click here to donate now.
As always, thanks for helping in this very worthwhile endeavor and helping Becker show the spirit of the season to families who need it more than you’ll ever know.