Imagine that your child has been diagnosed with cancer. Now imagine that in order to care for your child, either you or your partner has to quit your job. And, if you don't live in Albuquerque, get ready to move here, because the only Pediatric Oncology Clinic in the state is at the University of New Mexico Hospital. If that's not hard enough, imagine that, due to your job loss and the extra expenses of caring for a sick child, you're behind on your rent, your phone bills, your electric bills, and your landlord's threatening to evict you. Sadly enough, such a scenario is not uncommon among families who have a child with cancer.
Lucky for many of them, the Children's Cancer Fund of New Mexico is there to help, when all else seems to be failing. The Children's Cancer Fund is an organization that assists children and their families with the day-to-day needs of living with and fighting cancer. Fulfilling virtually any needs that families may have, the small staff performs a wide range of services, from providing families with grocery and gas vouchers, to paying their rent and electric bills. The organization has even been known to buy new tires and batteries for family cars, since transportation to and from the hospital is such a priority. And, if circumstances call for it, they will help pay funeral costs.
With only a two-person staff, consisting of Executive Director Traci Cadigan and Administrative Assistant Danielle Lamphier, along with volunteers, the fund brings in and distributes over $140,000 a year. Because the organization's staff is so minimal, nearly all donations go straight to the kids and their families. Most of their fundraising is accomplished through the annual Erin Trujeque Memorial Golf Tournament that takes place every July. The memorial golf tournament was started by Diana Trujeque, who served as president of the Children's Cancer Fund for 10 years, and her husband, and is named after their son, who died from cancer at the age of 12.
"Nothing worse can happen to a family than have a child with cancer," says Trujeque, now serving on the organization's board of directors. That's why CCF does what they do. Not only does the organization help parents with financial difficulties, but they also provide children with the encouragement and support they so dearly need. Every Wednesday CCF brings food for kids and their families to the Pediatric Oncology Clinic and also provides a toy chest for children at the hospital, so after a long morning of treatment kids can get a smile on their face from picking out a new toy.
Scholarships are also offered through CCF for childhood cancer survivors that want to continue with higher education. Amounts range from $1200 to $2000 a year, and are renewable every year. Currently, 28 students are receiving scholarships through CCF.
"You just see that one kid with a smile on his face, or the look of relief in a mom's eyes, and it's a no-brainer," says Trujeque, "It's inspiration to me on a daily basis, everything else is small stuff."
The Children's Cancer Fund is always looking for volunteers who do everything from picking up and delivering toys and meals to helping around the office. If you'd like to volunteer, call 243-3618. (CC)