It is often said that from sadness, joy and kindness may spring.
When Anna Lonon’s husband died of cancer, she realized there wasn’t an active emotional support system for her and her two young children. Instead of giving up, she went on a quest. She created a foundation for families with children who have lost a parent or caregiver to cancer.
The Lonon Foundation offers families several key resources as they navigate their journey. The UPLIFT Program is designed for children aged 5-17. Here’s what’s included:
Personalized mindfulness-themed packages provide developmentally appropriate materials and activities to help children cope. Each child gets their own UPLIFT Box upon enrollment.
Virtual and in-person events that focus on coping skills.
Certified Child Life Specialists provide ongoing professional support.
Mini-grants through our Michelle Somogyi Nemeth Mini-Grant Program, which can be used for utility bills, school supplies, clothing, counseling, medication, and housing costs.
The Lonon Foundation has served more than 65 families and over 100 children across the state of South Carolina. Their programs and services are data-driven and goal-oriented to ensure continued effectiveness. For example, after hosting virtual events during the pandemic, they heard from families that they appreciate both in-person and virtual gatherings even now that the pandemic is over.
“We believe it’s critical to let the families lead when it comes to articulating their needs; we individualize our services for them based on their feedback. We evolve with our families and community partners,” Anna says.
When meeting a child who has lost their parent or caregiver to cancer, Anna says there are guideposts to help. “It’s important to have consistent, honest conversations — some children benefit from talking about their feelings or memories of the person, while others need more independent space to experience their emotions related to the death.”
The foundation encourages their families to have a special moment or celebration each year into survivorship. “Children tend to enjoy helping plan these moments,” Anna says. “It’s important to follow the lead of your child, as their feelings around the anniversary are diverse and complicated.”
Anna Lonon highlights key moments from her work that she’ll never forget:
-Providing mini-grants to help families in countless ways, including ensuring art therapy for a child, buying winter coats for families, and gifting families a computer for homeschooling during Covid.
-Hearing a person say that they are so glad we are here and that they are so thankful that someone understands what they are going through.
-Listening to a college student who has shared their story of having a parent with cancer and wanting to give back to help other kids so they don’t feel so alone.
-Seeing the smiling faces of kids over Zoom during the pandemic. Being a part of UPLIFT online was such an important way for them to express themselves during a difficult time.