Washington– Hope for Henry Foundation is an innovative nonprofit organization, created in 2003, by Laurie Strongin and Allen Goldberg that is changing the lives and hospital experiences of children fighting cancer and life-threatening blood diseases. Since its founding, Hope for Henry has helped over 25,000 sick children partnering with Children’s National Medical Center and Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C. and also Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Md.
Strongin and Goldberg founded the organization on what would’ve been their son Henry’s eighth birthday. Henry was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia, which causes bone marrow failure as a newborn and had to spend a lot of his childhood in hospital rooms.
The couple realized they had to create a happy and exciting life for Henry within those 8’10’ white-walled rooms, as the hospitals offered no programs that aided children in that way. After Henry passed away, the Strongin and Goldberg created the foundation to honor the happy and strong spirit of their son and to brighten the lives of other children.
“For them to get better, they don’t just need great medical care they also need to have their childhood as maintained as well as possible,” Strongin said.
Forty-three children are diagnosed with cancer in the United States every day, and 60 percent of children that survive cancer experience long-term effects. Hope for Henry works to keep those children happy after their diagnosis and lessen their effects.
Full-time child life specialists are funded by Hope for Henry to work in the hospitals and aid children with understanding the changes in their bodies due to medical treatments, support through medical procedures and more. Being that these specialists are around the children every day, they are able to create daily and weekly programs to cater specifically to them.
The foundation brings professional athletes, such as Ray Lewis, a former NFL player, to the hospitals, host spa days, book readings, holiday parties, birthday parties and much more. Kids can also earn “Hope for Henry Bucks” as an incentive for taking medicine, attending chemotherapy, getting shots, among other things. These bucks can earn them anything from a book to concert tickets with backstage passes. The team has found they help children get better quicker with less long-term effects.
Henry had a love for Batman that gave him courage through bone marrow transplants and other taxing procedures. As a result, the unofficial mascots of Hope for Henry are superheroes.
‘Superhero extravaganzas’ are hosted at the hospitals, superhero action figures are given out, and superhero cartoons are scattered throughout the foundation’s website.
“The superhero imagery is really powerful… for kids who are ill they take on a special meaning of invincibility and strength and courage and the ability to sort of fight evil,” Strongin said.
Raena Mitchell’s son, Asa, who battles congenital heart disease has had to be courageous during his almost nine years of life. Asa had to spend his seventh birthday at Children’s National with painful tubes in his chest.
“With limited visitation, we did the best we could to keep his spirit up under the circumstances, chest x-rays every four hours, iv, tubes, drugs…,” Mitchell said. Hope for Henry stepped in to make Asa’s birthday special, despite the circumstances. “I believe the superheroes were also sent by Hope for Henry. Then the cartload of decorations with this favorite characters, Georgetown Cupcakes, party favors, and toys all lit Asa up,” Mitchell said.
Hope for Henry is continuing to lift the spirits of children like Asa every day, and is planning to expand across the country. With dedicated staff and volunteers, partners like Children’s Charities, Georgetown Cupcake, and Enterprise; Hope for Henry promises a bright future.
If you want to make an impact through the Hope for Henry Foundation, there are several ways to help.
“A couple great things would be to do a toy drive… collecting superhero action figures… collecting Halloween costumes,” Carolyn Fung, the Hope for Henry program director advised.