“Food, glorious food! Eat right through the menu!” – Oliver
It’s amazing what you DON’T think about when a health crisis hits; especially when it’s your child having the health crisis. One of the many things we learned when Charlotte was diagnosed with cancer was that, as a parent, food for ourselves was absolutely the last thing we considered on our list of priorities. After speaking with many other parents and caregivers in similar situations, we have found it to be a consistent sentiment.
For us, hospital stays meant eating lots of fast food, vending machine junk, or the entire lasagna that the neighbor brought over. So when it came time to start giving back/paying it forward through CJ’s Thumbs Up Foundation, we decided healthy(ish) meals were a way to start and the “Meal Fairies” program was born. The Meal Fairies began by offering something of a “telephone tree” kind of system where news of a child’s health crisis was spread and we would try to get someone to run food over to the hospital or their house so that they would have one less thing on their “worry list.” It only worked passably and we knew there were many more families NOT getting the nourishment they needed. Something more needed to be done.
We approached Heather Kinney in the Child Life Department of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (where Charlotte received the majority of her treatment) to arrange for meals to be served once a month up on the 7th floor pediatric wing of the Main Hospital. We teamed up with Connor’s Heroes Foundation to get everything organized/approved through the hospital and on Thursday, June 28, 2011, the “Lunch Bunch” served it’s first meal to around 50 parents and caregivers.
As CJSTUF continued to grow financially, we were able to increase the Thursday meals to a weekly occurrence (including an AMAZING Thanksgiving meal from Homemades By Suzanne) and by the end of 2012, we had served 1177 meals!
The Lunch Bunch has continued as a weekly program ever since, offering not only healthy meals to the residents of the 7th floor but a great way for CJSTUF and CHF to directly communicate with many families within our scope of service. As of the end of August, The Lunch Bunch had served 2422 meals in 2013, which puts us on pace to triple the number of meals served from last year.
Our latest Meal Fairies project is serving occasional Tuesday evening meals at Ronald McDonald House of Richmond. After staying at the RMH in Houston and seeing the wonderful meals provided by area businesses and churches, we know how much it is appreciated. So far, we have participated in 4 nights and already have many more planned for the future. We also hope to expand this service to other hospitals and cities starting early next year.
The future for CJSTUF’s Meal Fairies is extremely bright and we are excited at the prospect of increasing the number of families we can help both financially and with the occasional healthy meal.
Thanks to the generous discounts provided by our food vendor sponsors such as Pepicelli’s Pizza, Christopher’s Runaway Gourmay, Au Bon Pain, and the aforementioned Homemades By Suzanne, we can serve 70-100 people for about $300 a week. These weekly expenses, plus the staff required to facilitate meal distribution and visit with the families, add up quickly.
You can continue to help The Meal Fairies in various ways:
1) On Thursday, September 18, a 36-hour fundraising spectacle called The Amazing Raise will take place. Hosted by The Community Foundation in Richmond, it will include dozens of local tax-exempt organizations, including CJSTUF, vying for your donations of $25-50 in order to win thousands of dollars in bonus prizes.
Two of those bonus prizes are called the “Lunch Breaks” and will run from 12-2pm on both Sep 18th and 19th. The organization that receives the most donations of $25 or more during this time will get an extra $1000 bonus grant. A portion of donations we receive from the Amazing Raise during these times will directly benefit the Meal Fairies program. You can pledge your support for this program today! We will help with the rest.
2) Volunteer to help cook or provide food for dinners at Ronald McDonald House of Richmond. We are allowed to either bring in a catered meal or cook the meal itself in their newly renovated (and, might I add, super gorgeous!) kitchen. Well supervised “younger assistants” are allowed and welcomed. Dates available for volunteering are: Sep. 10th and then Oct. 1, 22, and 29. Please contact Roger at email@example.com.
3) Join the growing crowd of regular supporters who contribute through weekly or monthly payroll deductions sent directly to CJSTUF. Many companies will match your donations. Ask your Human Resources department.
As always, thank you for your tremendous support and please remember: It’s not just food…it’s hope.