HURRICANE — The fight against childhood cancer can be traumatic for children, their families and caregivers.
The challenges posed by the disease itself and the drugs needed to treat it can take a significant toll. But there are other challenges that can get in the way of getting the best treatment available. The logistics involved in reaching treatment facilities and paying travel expenses can be daunting.
Many families don’t realize what a complex journey lies ahead until they are forced to navigate it. Thanks to Walking Miracles, they no longer have to make this difficult journey alone.
The Walking Miracles Family Foundation, a West Virginia-based 501c3 nonprofit organization, was established to support caregivers, families, and survivors affected by childhood, adolescent and young adult cancers. Patient navigators connect childhood cancer patients and their families with helpful resources and referral networks.
How Walking Miracles came about is a tale of despair, courage and eventual triumph. Brett Wilson, the founder of Walking Miracles, survived childhood cancer twice. In 1974, at the age of 2, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Wilson underwent five years of chemotherapy and radiation. A year and a half later, he relapsed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Years after his treatment, when long-term side effects usually occur, Wilson and his family had virtually no support. He created Walking Miracles in 2012 so other families could get the support that he and his family didn’t have.
Wilson, an MA counselor and certified patient navigator, along with Kacie Owens, a nurse navigator, are patient navigators at Walking Miracles, Hurricane headquarters. They guide cancer patients and their families and caregivers from initial diagnosis through the continuum of care. This ensures that caregivers and survivors have access to their mental health referral networks and state programs, which can also provide financial aid and support, access to school counselors and psychologists, and travel services, including discounted lodging, restaurant gift cards, and more.
Earlier this year, Walking Miracles received a sub-grant state grant from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health through the Office of Maternal, Child and Family Health in conjunction with the Children with Special Health Care Needs program to provide navigation services for patients from diagnosis through the continuum of care.
Travel costs are the number one barrier to care in West Virginia, so Walking Miracles implemented the Country Roads Travel Assistance Program. More than 250 families in 33 of West Virginia’s 55 counties have been helped by Country Roads, developed by Walking Miracles in 2013. The program also supports families living in adjacent West Virginia counties of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, North Carolina, Maryland and Ohio living. who travel to hospitals and cancer centers in West Virginia for treatment and travel out of state when referred by a physician.
The Walking Miracles travel card helps pay for gas, food, and lodging. To date, they have provided families with more than $250,000 in travel assistance over the past eight years.
Walking Miracles believes it is vital for all childhood and adolescent cancer patients in West Virginia to get a survival plan and be connected to a survival clinic for proper follow-up. This includes education about relevant areas of treatment and about the expected long-term side effects.
To provide the necessary follow-up, Walking Miracles is supported by Anytime Telehealth, a convenient and cost-effective way to connect with healthcare providers, and E Care 21 helps Walking Miracles navigators monitor and document patient needs and survivors while during and after treatment.
Visit www.walkingmiracles.org to learn more about the Walking Miracles Family Foundation, to request assistance, or to donate to its programs.