Sarah Brown's son was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. He died six years later.
Through it all, she remembers those who supported her along the way: the parents who brought her toothpaste or books while she was with her son at the hospital, the group of people who were there for her family in their time of need.
"And they've been doing that for 40 years," Brown says.
Many of those people were part of the American Childhood Cancer Organization Inland Northwest. After seeing firsthand what the organization did, Brown decided to get involved in the organization herself. Now, she's executive director of the American Childhood Cancer Organization Inland Northwest, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
The nonprofit serves local children and their families who have been diagnosed with cancer. At diagnosis, it gives patient bags to families that include information, toiletries, gas and grocery cards, and other essential items during their hospital stay. It also invites families to events, with the purpose of reminding families that they're not alone, that others understand what they're going through.
The organization started as a parent-to-parent volunteer group known as the Inland Northwest Candlelighters. In 2010, it became an affiliate of the national American Childhood Cancer Organization. Brown says that the chapter here remains a local organization, with 100 percent of funds or donations staying in the area.
"Most of us are parents who have had children of cancer," she says. "This organization has been there for my family the whole time."
THERE UNTIL THE END
The American Childhood Cancer Organization Inland Northwest isn't the only organization celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Hospice Of Spokane, which provides care to people with terminal conditions, has also been around for four decades.
In fact, says CEO Gina Drummond, Hospice of Spokane was one of the first hospices in the nation.
Hospice of Spokane offers in-home nursing care, health aides, and grief and bereavement counseling services for people of any age with a terminal illness and their families. Typically, Hospice of Spokane gets involved when someone has about six months to live. That can make families unwilling to get hospice care, but Drummond says they shouldn't be so reluctant. She says people often find that they wished they had hospice care sooner.
"What people don't realize is the chance of living longer is probably greater with hospice's involvement," Drummond says. "We're making sure they're taking medications as described, and the quality of life is intact."
Drummond says that in the coming decades, Hospice of Spokane will continue to make people aware of its work:
"We just want to be responsive, adaptive, and we want to be always making sure we're meeting the needs of the community, and that we're listening to what the community needs now." ♦