Meet Rhonda Ryan, LMSW and Director of Friends of Karen's Family Support Program. Rhonda is the Friends of Karen social worker working with Luke's family:

I met with Luke's parents, John and Nicole, in their home on a number of occasions over the last few months to provide emotional support and to assist them in anticipating their financial needs while Luke is going through transplant. This family will be living in two cities over the next 3-4 months.  Mom and Luke will be living at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Dad and Luke’s sister Grace will remain in New York during the week.  Dad and Grace will travel each weekend to Philadelphia where they will stay for 3 days and will then return home on Sunday night so that dad can return to work each Monday. I am always amazed by our Friends of Karen parents, and their ability to maintain as much normalcy as possible under such difficult circumstances.

While the conversations we had were difficult for Luke’s parents, I know it was helpful for them to discuss their fears, hopes and dreams for Luke while he is going through his bone marrow transplant.  We talked about ways to talk to Luke and different analogies they can use to discuss his illness that would be appropriate for a child his age. They shared pictures of his previous transplant and recalled some of the painful memories as they talked about their worries and fears regarding his upcoming transplant. We also talked about Grace and how difficult it was going to be for her to travel back and forth from Philly to New York, and we talked about a good childcare plan that would be best for her. Providing an outlet for families and being able to support them in their own safe environment (their home) is just one of the reasons why I am so passionate about working at Friends of Karen. Not only do you meet amazing parents and amazing kids, you get to be a part of the solution that allows families to remain stable and functioning during these long and difficult months of treatment. 

Luke's family, like most of the families Friends of Karen helps, will experience not only a loss of income over the next several months, they will also incur enormous additional illness related expenses, such as housing while they are in Philadelphia, food expenses and travel expenses. I spent time with John and Nicole going over every detail of their income and expenses in order to formulate a financial plan.  While Friends of Karen cannot absorb every expense, we will be able to assist with some household expenses, childcare for Grace while dad is at work and mom is in Philadelphia, and some assistance with their many medical bills.  Since Friends of Karen will not be able to do it all, I will also be looking for other resources as I work with this family over the next several months.  

Friends of Karen's unique blend of providing both financial and emotional support to families has proven to be an extremely effective approach to stabilizing families and decreasing psychological distress throughout their child's treatment.