Worcester’s ‘Why Me’ + Sherry’s House Help Families Battle Cancer
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Worcester's very own Why Me and Sherry's House is an extraordinary charitable organization that embraces the power of love and uses it to help families dealing with unimaginable heartache.
Since being founded in 1985 by an incredibly courageous and determined 13-year old girl named Sherry Shepherd even as she herself was suffering from terminal cancer, W.H.Y.M.E. (Worcester Help for Youth, Memories Everlasting) main goal has been to provide love and support services to families of children being treated for childhood cancer at a New England area hospital.
"She became an inspiration to all who knew her, especially to the other children staying in the cancer ward...during the last months of her life, Sherry became determined to do something that would have lasting value in helping children with cancer," says Robyn Lewis, Why Me's Marketing and Developmental Manager.
Some specific services provided by Why Me include, but are not limited to: support groups, hospital social visits, family fun events, trips to sporting events, bereavement support, direct financial assistance, and birthday parties.
All support is completely free for the specific family involved.
"Childhood cancer affects the entire family, each person in a different way. Families struggle emotionally, logistically, spiritually, and financially when their child becomes stricken with cancer. Each family member also bears an unimaginable burden," says Lewis.
"At Why Me, we are aware of the needs of these families and we can provide the assistance they need without having to be asked. We strive to restore a sense of harmony in the lives of our families."
Sherry Shepherd remained the inspiration, maintaining her legacy of love, in 2004 when the organization founded Sherry's House to help broaden their embrace of comfort and support in Central New England. The eight bedroom residence in Tatnuck Square lodges families who have children dealing with the disease. The organization as a whole now works out of Sherry's House, and it provides comfort and support to all families involved with the organization, not just those lodging there.
Since its creation, Why Me has played an active role in helping more than 500 families attempting their hardest to deal with their child's illness. About 60% of these families have been Worcester County residents.
"Our ultimate goal is to alleviate the isolation, desperation and constant stress a child and their family faces as they cope with childhood cancer," says Danielle Perron, Director of Family Services for the non-profit.
"We want to ensure that these families are receiving the services they need to support them throughout their child’s illness. We define our success as no child or family living or being treated in the New England community facing the pain of childhood cancer alone."
If you wish to get involved or help the organization in some way, there are many opportunities to do so. For instance, Why Me is currently holding a food drive to fill the pantry at Sherry's House. The pantry provides relief for the families in many ways and the community is encouraged to participate.
"Often times when a child is diagnosed with cancer one parent will leave his or her job to care for the child. This creates a financial burden that affects the whole family," says Perron.
"A few bags of groceries from our pantry help to alleviate the worry of having to figure out where the next meal will come from and allow the parents focus to remain on fighting their child’s cancer."
The organization runs additional food drives during the holiday season and offers a Home Delivery Meal Assistance program as well.
For this program, they ask their volunteers and community supporters to prepare home cooked meals such as – pasta dishes, chicken dishes, casseroles, rice dishes etc., that can be easily transported and/or frozen. Dishes can be dropped off directly to Sherry’s House. They then set up a schedule to deliver meals to families on a once or twice weekly basis.
"With this program we hope to eliminate the stress a parent feels of having to cook dinner for their family after an emotionally draining day," says Lewis.
The charity continues to expertly adapt and evolve to meet changing conditions while keeping the same loving mission and goals in mind.
For example, they currently have a large number of newly diagnosed children who are 4 years old and younger, so this fall they are starting a Parent’s Social one morning a week. This gives parents with younger children a safe place to bring their child and an opportunity to socialize with other cancer parents outside the hospital or home setting.
A Benefit to the Soul
Those who volunteer and work for Why Me and Sherry's House benefit as well as the children and families they do so much to help, but in more intangible ways, like anyone's soul benefits from an act inspired by love for those in suffering.
"We witness firsthand the strength and determination in these young warriors; they are our inspiration. A child can spend all day at the hospital receiving chemotherapy then come to Sherry’s House and run around playing dress up, air hockey, doing art projects – just being a kid. We are in awe of the resiliency of the children we work with it," says Perron.
"We may not be able to take the child’s illness away but we can provide love and support during their journey. It is gratifying to know that we can do a lot of little things that make a big difference."
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