By Megan Schaefer
Local organization helps ill children and their families
Superhero Kids, founded in December 2009 by Samia and John Joseph, is an organization whose main mission is to help children and their families who are battling cancer and blood disorders.
The organization supports its patients and their families through non-medical programming such as support groups, transportation and basic living expenses, according to the Dell Children’s Medical Center. Superhero Kids receives funding from events, volunteers and private individuals and 100 percent of the donations go directly to the children, their families and the programs that support them. According to Samia, any expenses (event food, T-shirts, thank you notes, etc.) for the program are paid for by companies, local businesses or individuals. Currently, the group has over 200 volunteers and one full-time employee (Samia) and none receive compensation.
After starting out as volunteers at the Dell Children’s Blood and Cancer Center of Central Texas, which is now a partner and promoter of the organization, the Joseph’s began meeting many families and were inspired by their journeys, according to Samia. “We met so many families who explained to us that when their child was diagnosed, one parent (in a two parent family) was forced to quit working in order to manage their child’s treatment,” she says. “Families who have never worried about monthly bills now find themselves in desperate situations.”
Nine-year-old Parker Doe*, who was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma (a highly malignant brain tumor) by Dr. Don Wells at the age of 5, first heard about the program when getting a blood transfusion at the Children’s Hospital in 2009. “They helped cheer me up when I was not feeling well,” he says. “They made me smile a lot and my mom too.” Now in remission, Parker says he wants to help other children feel better: “I would like to become a volunteer at the clinic when I am older, so that I can help the sick children feel better, just like they did for me.”
Heather Garza, a pediatric dietitian specialist, says she came across the organization in 2011 when she was on the Children’s Hospital’s website looking for volunteering opportunities with chronically ill children. “Those that are helped [by Superhero Kids] seem to be happier and better adjusted to the challenges that they face daily,” she says. “They also have a larger support system which makes a world of difference when you live with a chronic illness.” Garza is responsible for assessing the nutritional status of patients and maintaining optimal nutrition health during and after treatment.
“I would like to see Superhero Kids grow in strength so that it can provide more support to our patients and their families,” says Deborah Parrott, a residential nurse at the Children’s Hospital. “I love the positive energy and impact that it gives to our patient population and the clinic staff.” Parrott has been working with Superhero Kids since April 2012. She works with the hematology (blood) and oncology (cancer or tumors) teams and is responsible for: labs, administering medications for treatment and facilitates treatment plans for the patients.
Sam Dowd, a volunteer with the organization since late 2010 is known as the “volunteer extraordinaire,” according to Samia. “I encourage John and Samia to utilize me wherever they see fit,” Dowd says. “I have worked with SH Kids in a variety of events, from helping organize their water stop for the Livestrong Marathon to helping move cows around Austin with the Cow Parade in 2011.” In the future, Dowd says he wants help Superhero Kids organize competitive events that are exclusively their own.
*Source’s last name was changed due to patient confidentiality.