In the two years that I have had Carolyn as a student, she has grown her hair out "#8211; twice. Each time, when her hair grew to exactly 10 inches beyond the shortest she could bear to wear it, she got it cut and donated it to Locks of Love (a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to children under age 18 struggling with long-term medical hair loss from cancer and other illnesses). Amber, Carolyn's 17-year-old cousin, has leukemia. Recently, Amber went to Mayo—again. This time she went for a bone marrow transplant because all other treatments have failed to keep her young body in remission.
My daughter's schoolmate, Chris, has missed over 100 days of school this year. His young, eager, fourth-grade mind and body has been drastically slowed down by chronic ulcerative colitis. Time that he spent participating in sports, cub scouts, and activities with friends is now spent trying to heal through numerous drug therapies and diets.
The daughter of one of my colleagues, eighteen-month-old Emma, is recovering from the removal of half of her brain. Severe damage was done to her brain when, at only four months old, a TV fell on her head. After numerous initial brain surgeries to repair the damage, Emma began having seizures that could not be stopped with medication. The removal of a large portion of her brain has stopped the seizures and now her young body is working overtime to generate brain re-growth and ways to adapt to the loss.
Teens and young children suffering with diseases and injuries have needs unique to their age. This month, consider working as a small group to meet the distinctive needs of an ill or injured teen or young child. Take into account both the needs of the child and the family.
For the child, focus on items that can help pass long periods of time, either at home or in the hospital:
- Books on CD
- Coloring books
- Mini dollhouses or cars
- Food (make sure it meets dietary requirements)
For the family, concentrate on the emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial strain:
- Restaurant gift cards/meals
- Frequent flier miles (often family members need to fly to see their child at a specialty hospital)
- Donations of sick leave (start a campaign at the parent"#8217;s workplace to get paid time off donated from co-workers)
- Notes/cards of encouragement
- Babysitting other children in the family
Spend time at each small group meeting praying for the child and the family. Make individual commitments to pray throughout the week, and create a schedule so notes and cards are sent to the child and the family several times a week.
Small group leaders, encourage your group members to:
- Make a contribution of money to a child or teen going to camp or on a mission trip.
- Donate children's books to your local abused adult resource center and/or Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
- Give a teenager $20 with the challenge to enjoy it with a friend.