While its name is long, its mission is simple. Candlelighters aims "to provide emotional, educational, and practical support to children with cancer and their families. In addition, Candlelighters desires to promote childhood cancer awareness, and the need for childhood cancer education and research in the Houston community."
As for that first part, Candlelighters began as two-parent support groups in 1989: One at Texas Children's Hospital and another at M.D. Anderson. The groups combined forces and incorporated and now they continue their work of helping to support entire families dealing with childhood cancers at both hospitals.
Helping those families means lending a hand with expenses that most would not think twice about in a normal situation.
"Our biggest practical need for families is help with parking," says Lynn Wheeler, director of development for Candlelighters.
Wheeler explained that parking in the medical center can be up to $12 a day. When a family goes from two incomes to one income, in addition to all the medical bills, $12-$24 a day can add up quickly. That's why Candlelighters commits a large part of its budget to something normally taken for granted.
One family Candlelighters served recently spent 219 consecutive days at the hospital with their sick child. Those 219 days of parking added up quickly and the family ended up taking out credit cards solely to pay for that expense. With the help of the organization, the family was able to spend more time with their child and less time worrying about exorbitant parking fees.
In addition to help with parking, Candlelighters donates meal cards, gas cards, pharmacy cards and in the time of most emotional need, help with funeral expenses.
And because Candlelighters' focus is on the entire family, of which every member is affected in some way through a cancer diagnosis, they also offer programs to enhance the lives of everyone involved. Some of those include Camp CLIFF, where families can spend time together outside of a hospital and in a fun environment; a Fall Family Festival; support group meetings and something especially apropos of the season, an "Adopt-a-Family" for the holidays.
By adopting a family (which can be done by downloading this form) a group, company or organization can give a family in need of financial, moral and emotional support a less stressful and more meaningful holiday season. "Adopting" the family means buying gifts for everyone, not just the child with cancer, and delivering them to the family in need.
"Adopting one of our families helps so much," says Wheeler. "The last thing you want to think about after a child has been diagnosed with cancer is having to go Christmas shopping for the family."
In addition to a special prix fixe "Month of Giving" menu — which gives $10 for every $49.95 dinner bought to the charity this week (through Sunday) — Fleming's is also playing host to a special fashion show today from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Teaming up with Muse Boutique, many Candlelighter moms will model the latest fashions to help raise funds for the organization. Tickets (which are almost sold out) can be purchased by calling Fleming's at 713-520-5959. Last year the event raised over $10,000.