Families facing devastating illness now have a local organization dedicated to helping them cope the Piggyback Foundation.
The foundation started with a group of friends who enjoy sitting down to a cup of coffee together. They decided to band together to do more than just drink coffee.
Lisa and Dirk Hiler, Stephanie Islam, Becky Knittel, Lisa Herner, Janel Doll and Melissa Prack started the foundation last spring.
The group's name is explained on its Web site "Childhood memories should be happy ones ... every child loves a piggyback ride."
"We try to help them maintain normalcy when their families are struck by a serious illness," said Lisa Hiler. "It is like a mini-Make A Wish Foundation."
Hiler said the foundation has four focuses family counts, education counts, kids count and faith counts.
When dealing with the high cost of medical treatments and medicines, many families don't have the money to splurge just on one day of family fun so that falls under family counts. "We want to help create positive memories," Hiler said, instead of just memories of dealing with illness. She said the foundation sent one family to Kalahari for a little break from the day-to-day stress of illness.
The time consumed by treatment and hospital visits often leave families struggling to keep up with children's school work, she said, so the group set education counts as a priority.
"One little girl said her mother was so busy at the hospital that she didn't have time to help with her daughter's reading homework," Hiler said. The Piggyback Foundation will set the family up with someone who can help students keep with their school work.
Under the kids count part of the foundation, the group will help pay for extracurricular activities such as piano lessons, rec center classes or uniforms for kids to participate in sports. Hiler explained those expenses are sometimes the first to go when a family experiences the financial burden of a serious illness.
For the last focus of the foundation faith counts the group will help a family get connected with a local church if they don't already attend one. Many people who have not attended church regularly find they want to start examining their faith when facing serious health issues, Hiler said.
She said the group has helped three families so far. They work with local doctors and the American Cancer Society to identify families in need of help.
"Getting the word out is what we're doing now," Hiler said.
She said Christian Roberts Salon held a special event and donated 100 percent of the profits to the Piggyback Foundation. That raised more than $3,000.
Hiler said the group also has received several private donations. Group members also are beginning to talk to the local United Fund about programs.
"We are finding more and more people stepping up to offer donations," Hiler said. "The people who have accepted help want to give back and that's really neat."
She said one woman who battled stomach cancer over the summer called to say it would be part of her family's healing process to help others. The woman offered to provide meals for another family struggling with illness.