There have forever been nonprofit agencies and charities that focus on providing children with life-threatening illnesses and ongoing medical conditions – and parents of lesser financial means – much-needed care, healing and hospitalization for free. That’s a gift, and a blessing.
Yet, since 2020 and its launch of a Greater Philadelphia chapter, the national nonprofit A Kid Again, not only seeks to provide year-round, free services to youths with life-threatening conditions and their families, but, a childlike sense of adventure, literally and figuratively. By providing its families everything from at-home Adventures in a Box, Virtual Adventures and Drive-Thru Adventures, A Kid Again helps to heal its patients and their families, inside and outside, from their bodies through to their spirits.
Along with having celebrated its one-year anniversary with a virtual event this month, A Kid Again has been able to offer in-person “Adventures” for children and their families starting in mid-June now that COVID-19 restrictions have loosened. So far, that has meant concerts by DJ Logic, picnics at Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, and rides and slides at Dorney Park.
Rachel Lippoff, A Kid Again’s Greater Philadelphia executive director has been at the forefront of both the program’s healing aspects as well as its entertainment opportunities since starting the gig during COVID quarantine.
“A Kid Again was started in Ohio 26 years ago, with the Greater Philadelphia chapter opening at the tail end of 2019,” said Lipoff. “And like the rest of our chapters around the country, we provide hope, happiness and healing for children with life-threatening conditions and their families. We do that by providing a wealth of different ‘Adventures,’ along with community support.”
Whether it is a special holiday party or a home Adventure for a sick child; providing consistent and regular fun-filled opportunities to look forward to, for kids battling illness, their siblings and their parents, is essential to the healing process and overall wellbeing. “These Adventures, whether at home or held throughout the area, mean so much to them,” added Lipoff.
Defining the sorts-of life threatening illnesses that children go through to put them on A Kid Again’s radar, Lipoff says that her organization is “condition agnostic,” wherein any condition that a medical doctor deems as life-threatening is their criteria, and those families can participate in as many free and diverse programs as they wish. “Our enrollment process is simple, with families asked basic questions about a child’s diagnosis, their doctor and hospital information,” said Lipoff.
“And families are connecting to us, and our programs, through the outreach that we do with social workers, family life professionals and children’s hospitals in the area. We partner strongly with CHoP in Philadelphia, whose director of social work is on our advisory board, as well as other area hospitals. Also, we often get clients through family referrals. Just yesterday I spoke with one of our moms who wanted to share our information with other support groups, and other medical groups.”
Completely free for A Kid Again families (“We never charge anything,” emphasizes Lipoff), the nonprofit is able to do as much through the generosity of individuals, corporations and foundations funding its mission and programs, as well as fundraising events three to four times a year. “Just telling our stories is enough for donors to want to learn more,” says Lipoff. “What makes us unique is that we not only do we have people who want to sponsor ‘Adventures,’ but volunteer to work the ‘Adventures’ as well, and meet the families they are providing funds for.”
Along with bringing joy to families and patients A Kid Again’s “Adventures” heighten the sensation of wellness and wholeness for children often dispirited by life-threatening illness. June has, so far, included indoor concert adventures and outdoor adventures (“Due to COVID and our more medically fragile children, we had to make sure we had outdoor events for parents still feeling uncomfortable”). Next month, there will be picnic afternoons in the park and, of course, their famed “Adventures in a Box” sent straight to families’ home. In August, the boxes will include tie-dying opportunities with t-shirts and all the dying materials. “We just send fun, safe things to people’s homes – everything from scavenger hunts, planting opportunities with shovels and other gardening amenities. We’ll have Halloween and Thanksgiving Adventures coming up this fall and winter, as well,” said Lipoff.
A Kid Again has over 55,500 families, nationally, taking part in its programs. Lipoff’s Greater Philadelphia area chapter is currently looking to enroll as many families and children with life-threatening conditions as possible, offering them health and healing options for their mind, body and soul. “Along with enrolling as many volunteers as we can, our chapter of A Kid Again wants to bring each and every one of them the hope, happiness and healing that we can through our adventures.”
To learn more, go to www.akidagain.org.