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FRIDAY FOCUS - Fairy Godmother Project

The Fairy Godmother Project is unlike most pediatric cancer organizations because they focus on the parents. They believe by alleviating the day-to-day stress through emotional and financial support, they are providing caregivers with more time and less stress, allowing them to better support their families during these difficult times. Fairy Godmother Project provides thoughtful programs that directly assist a family’s needs and helps reduce the stress associated with caring for a sick loved one. In this week’s Friday Focus we enjoyed speaking to Andie McConnell, Executive Director, to learn more about Fairy Godmother Project and the difference it is making in the community. 
Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

1. Family Services Program: The first program is The Family Services Program which began in 2012 after repeatedly observing the needs of families facing pediatric cancer in our community.  Due to the lack of local treatment facilities, the families have added stress and costs from driving to DC or Richmond, missed work and extended periods away from their families.  After surveying numerous families, Fairy Godmother Project (FGP) determined that parents felt isolated and alone, were in need of support with day-to-day tasks due to the stress and time away from home and that the financial impact on the family was great. As a result, Fairy Godmother Project was founded and provided services to lessen the stress on the parents and help give them time with their families.  The services provided include: financial relief through bill payment, meals, house cleaning, lawn care, groceries and gas cards. While these may seem small, the families report a decrease in stress and a feeling of relief knowing the support of FGP is in place. This year we added AAA memberships and a crisis fund.

2. The newest program, which began in 2015, is FGP’s Stargazers Program funded by the Lily Fund, named for a 7-year-old girl who died from cancer. This program supports families at end-of-life and beyond. When the child is placed in hospice, additional financial and emotional support are provided. Because of the established relationship with FGP, the families express a different level of trust and sense of comfort with FGP than other organizations involved during this time. As a result, FGP is able to work closely with hospice to better meet the family’s needs, provide much needed resources, assist with funeral planning and costs, obituary writing and provide volunteers for the funeral reception.  As a member of The Stargazers Program, once the child passes, the parents receive books on grief, are eligible to attend informal support groups for the parents, an online support group, receive cards from FGP on important days, can elect to have FGP hosted events on days of importance and can attend the memorial event in honor of all the children.  All of these focus heavily on the families’ well-being, especially mental health.

3. Photography Program: We provide the families with professional photography sessions. 
Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?
There really isn’t one moment for me, but I love moments with our families when we are able to honor their children, either through the funeral and celebration of life or with annual memorial events.  Being with families during these moments is a true honor and ensuring these children are never forgotten is extremely important to me.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
Organizationally: Finding non-event related funding because our services don’t currently fall into areas typically funded like education, mental health and research.
Personally: Watching people I know and have grown to love lose a child.
Q: Are there any upcoming events?
Fundraising events:
May 11 - Carter’s Crusaders Golf Tournament
June 5 - Day of Giving
September 28 - Stardust Ball (tickets go on sale June 1)
Q: How can people get involved with your organization?
We have many opportunities for volunteering. On our website is an application for volunteers to fill out. We also have group project opportunities for house projects to help our families and meal making events at Fredericksburg United Methodist Church every other month on the second Tuesday.