In a normal year for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, the week before Easter is spent putting together and delivering Easter baskets to the families they support year round as they care for their children suffering from cancer.
The TBCF served 197 families in 2019, and the Easter holiday is a chance for them to give children with cancer and their siblings a little extra love with its program Project Easter, where, in addition to distributing baskets to Foundation families, they donate them to the Cancer Pediatric Oncology Unit at Cottage Children’s Medical Center.
However, the TCBF had to find an alternative this year because of COVID-19.
“We’ve had to curtail a lot of that because of the virus and the fact that we simply do not know. I could be carrying, any of our staff could be carrying the virus and we can’t just leave out an Easter basket that could have the virus on it to our immune-compromised kids,” said Interim Executive Director, Eryn Shugart.
Not wanting the holiday to pass by without doing something for families, the TBCF has found several innovative ways to bring Easter to their community that has been hit especially hard as the children are in a very high risk group and many families they support work in the service industry.
In lieu of Easter baskets, the TBCF will be accepting collecting e-gift cards and monetary donations as a way to support families in a safe and effective manner.
In addition, the TBCF has created a virtual Easter egg hunt on its website that they hope will engage both donors and the families they support with the TCBF mission and give them a little Easter fun while under quarantine.
When you visit https://www.teddybearcancerfoundation.org, keep an eye out for dozens of well-hidden Easter eggs. If you think you’ve found them all, you can email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the winner will get a silly prize, Ms. Shugart told the News-Press.
“For families it’s something fun to do and they can learn a little bit about our organization as they try to find all the eggs. Then for our supporters it’s a great way as well for them to learn about what we do, the impact that the COVID-19 has had on us, which pops up right away when you visit our website, and it’s a great way to just increase awareness for supporters about our programs and need for funding,” said Ms. Shugart.
The TBCF is also supporting families through the COVID-19 crisis with Story Time with Steve, which can be found on the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation Facebook and Youtube pages.
“One of our staff is reading stories. He himself has a child that’s recovering from cancer, so he’s reading stories that kids can listen to and it give them something else fun that they can do,” said Ms. Shugart.
TBCF staff is also in the process of creating virtual support groups and parent connection groups for families.
“I will say that we have been happy that we’ve been able to provide extra assistance to our families during this time,” said Ms. Shugart.
Thanks to a generous gift of over $7,000 dollars from one of its donors, the TBCF has been able to provide food and other direct essential needs to families, as well as some additional funding for those eligible.
However, being 100% donations based, the TBCF is still deeply troubled over what the future holds. Already, its major spring fundraiser, the California Clam Bake, has been pushed to November, and even its September event seems to be in danger.
“The COVID-19 ripple-effect on the economy has us very concerned about securing enough income to continue to serve our families, not having to put them on a waiting list, etc. We have had some generous donors and foundations step up to help but we’re still very, very concerned,” said Ms. Shugart.
Those interested in supporting the TBCF’s mission can visit https://www.teddybearcancerfoundation.org to learn more and contribute, or can reach out to Ms. Shugart directly via email at email@example.com or phone at 805-563-4723.
To make a donation or purchase an online gift card for Easter, supporters can visit https://www.teddybearcancerfoundation.org/project-easter.