Allie’s Helping Hands was inspired by Allison (Allie) McConnell Lock. At just two years old, Allie was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia – a disease that she would courageously fight for the next twelve years. Allie was a beautiful, kind, thoughtful and brave little girl who despite daunting health obstacles always had a smile on her face and a positive attitude.
During Allie’s twelve-year battle, her sister, Kristen Lock Spalding, became aware that there were few resources inside the hospital for siblings. Aside from a playroom, and an occasional visit to the toy chest, there were few structured activities, or social support opportunities for siblings of children with critical illnesses.
That changed one day when a volunteer family came to the hospital and invited Allie’s sister to a “day of play” – a temporary escape from the emotional heaviness associated with her sister’s treatment. That day of laughter, friendship and sunshine was over 20 years ago although it feels like just yesterday.
Today, several local organizations offer support to siblings of children fighting cancer. Child Life Specialists focus on the needs of patients and their families, including siblings. Hospitals have play and game rooms staffed with volunteers, structured support groups, and organized cooking and craft lessons. In addition, siblings have access to age-appropriate educational material, college grants, trophies, care packages, social networking sites, and a sibling advocacy network.
While several organizations have made strides in addressing the needs of siblings, a key component is still missing. That is, a one-stop center that offers social support, advocacy, and relational experiences dedicated specifically to siblings of children with critical illnesses.