RSO lends helping hand to families in need
Published: Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 03:11
Families affected by chronic illness sometimes need a little help getting by. Treatments are time consuming, costly and often physically draining, making every day activities much more difficult. It can be hard for family and friends to help, especially if they live far away, and sometimes families are left with no one to turn to –– until now.
Lori's Hands, a registered student organization new to campus this fall, seeks to help families dealing with chronic illness, including cancer. The group consists of both nursing and non-nursing major student volunteers.
The group was started last spring by junior Sarah LaFave in honor of her mother who passed away from breast cancer before Lafave came to the university.
"This is exactly what she'd be doing if she were here," LaFave said.
She said the plan was originally for Lori's Hands to focus on helping women with breast cancer. The idea expanded to the families of women with breast cancer, and now the RSO is open to the families of anyone fighting chronic illness.
Lafave and her friends, the original group members, spent the spring and summer dealing with liability issues with the university. The RSO went through several changes before it was approved by Alex Keen , assistant director of student organizations and the RSO board.
"My original proposition was that we would be driving patients to appointments and babysitting for them," she said. "I wanted to go in suggesting everything we could, and then cut back from there if we had to. Those two elements worried the university."
LaFave said she thought Keen was impressed that Lori's Hands could answer all his questions and that they had a business plan. She said the RSO was happy to work with the board to make sure the students would always be safe.
"Students going into houses, anything could happen, and it would come back to the school," Lafave said. "Now we have waivers to cover all that."
The waivers state the university is not liable for anything and guarantees the student has their own medical insurance. The families being helped must sign similar waivers, in addition to a statement explaining that the students are not authorized to provide any medical care.
Right now Lori's Hands has five families signed up for the program. Two were referred to them by the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, and three were referred by a home nursing service.
None of the families have received services from Lori's Hands yet, due to delays in finalizing the liability issues with the university. There have also been delays because of family members' surgery dates.
Cathy Holloway, the special projects manager at the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, provided information for Lori's Hands to get started and referred two families to the RSO.
She said DBCC and hospitals cannot give out patient information, but they can mention Lori's Hands to families who might be interested, and the families can contact the RSO independently.
"There are other organizations that help in a similar way but there is a fee," Holloway said. "When you're undergoing treatment, one more thing to pay for is too much. People may be out of work while they are undergoing treatment, making payment even harder."
She is optimistic about the success of the RSO, but she said the logistics still may need refinement.
"I want to hear the feedback from the families. They have a great idea and there is a huge need for it in the community, especially in the economic situation nowadays, but feedback will help them decide what services to keep," Holloway said. "If it works, though, from what I know about university clubs, this will keep going even after the founders have graduated."
Senior Kelly Lawless, secretary of Lori's Hands, is in charge of fundraising and talking to potential families. She said she has personal experience with the hardship chronic illness can place on families.
"My grandparents live two hours away and when they were sick my parents were the ones taking care of them," Lawless said. "It would have been such a huge help to have somebody go to the grocery store or do a load of laundry, anything like that."
Lawless said aside from her personal experience and her friendship with Lafave, she was drawn to Lori's Hands because of its unique idea.
"I know there's people out there who drive people to appointments, but going to the grocery store, doing the laundry, mowing their lawn –– zit's such a necessary thing, and the people we talk to are so grateful because they've never found anything like this," she said.
"It's just the little things. If we do the laundry for you, maybe you could make dinner. Or if we make dinner, maybe you could play with your kids."
Junior Mark Weidman, a Lori's Hands member, said joining the RSO was an easy decision.
"It'll be a really good feeling to help out these families, and it's not a big deal for us to give up an hour or two," Weidman said. "Just an hour of our time can really help these people out in a big way."
Fellow member, Junior Laura Scruggs, agreed.
"Now that Sarah's created a group where we can not only find the people that need help but help them, why wouldn't we?" Scruggs said. "I've got the time, I might as well give it a try."