We’ve all heard the phrase it takes a village to raise a child. Well, sometimes it takes an entire community to support a village.
When I was 19, I volunteered with a child battling cancer, and I quickly realized what a ripple effect the disease had on the entire family. This special parenting is isolating and challenging on so many levels, not the least of which is the emotional toll.
Connecting this child’s family to a larger community—one that shared in their circumstances—could provide hope and solace and make them feel like they weren’t alone in the journey.
In 2000, I founded Casey Cares with that idea in mind.
Today, through ongoing family-centric activities, more than 51,000 participants in eight states including Maryland and Washington, D.C. have been able to strengthen bonds with other families of critically ill children and have ammunition for their fight.
While these families were receiving support from other families in their community, Casey Cares was also receiving support from a larger community in Baltimore to make it happen.
What started with just a few volunteers helping a few families grew to local community members, hospitals and partners that allowed our level of impact to grow.
Partnerships with the Ballet Theatre of Maryland, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, the Baltimore Orioles, the Baltimore Ravens, the Maryland Zoo and the National Aquarium, to name a few, ensure that all activities given to our families are free of any cost and are one less stressor for them.
And having that community behind our Casey Cares families came full circle for us, too.
In 2007, everything in our office burned to ash in a six-alarm fire. Around 2 a.m., a father of a Casey Cares child approached me while I was surveying the damage. He saw the TV news story and wanted to help because Casey Cares had brought so much joy to his son.
That dark moment was transformed because he allowed me to see our positive impact on our community be returned to us in a meaningful way.
Our generous partners rallied behind Casey Cares and helped us guarantee that no family was left behind and every activity we had planned happened without a hitch, and drove home for us the power of community.
For those of you who might be thinking about creating an organization to elevate those with a specific need, it can be daunting, but I have learned you are never alone.
I view it as a series of building blocks or small steps that establish the foundation. Recognizing the exact requirement and identifying the common threads helps to direct the research. From that point, find your voice and ask or act.
Then, lean on your own community. Casey Cares is comprised of knowledgeable, caring, and proactive professionals who seek outside consideration like volunteering, in-kind donations, and monetary contributions for our programs.
And this community support still keeps us going today. In March and April, local businesses, organizations, places of worship and individuals donate new pajamas for our critically ill children.
For example, our goal this year is to send 23,000 pairs of pajamas to Mount Sinai, Mount Washington and University of Maryland Hospitals. Approximately 16,000 of these will be donated through the Casey Cares Biggest PJ Party. Learn more about our partners and donate to this fundraiser on caseycares.com.
As the head of this philanthropic little engine, I always put forth my personal philosophy—little moments make lasting memories. We see it time and time again at Casey Cares. If you can uplift someone, you will find that supporting your community means that it will care for you in return.
Casey Baynes is the mother of three active kids, the youngest person to receive a master’s degree from Towson University at the time of her education, and the founder & executive director of Casey Cares. Learn more about the organization’s work by visiting CaseyCares.org.