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Sarah Grace Foundation Continues Spreading Hope

The Sarah Grace Foundation For Children With Cancer, Inc., a Hicksville-based organization, honors the memory of Sarah Grace Weippert, who lost a courageous battle with leukemia at the age of 12.

The foundation, started by her parents, is an all-volunteer network of family, friends and loved ones whose mission is to provide child cancer sufferers with some laughs, smiles or momentary escapes from the reality of daily cancer treatments.

The work that Matt and Marissa Weippert are doing with the Sarah Grace Foundation provides positive outlets for many families during a difficult time. Together with their son James, their board of directors and a score of volunteers, the foundation continues to spread smiles to children with cancer. As the back to school season approached in September the Foundation was quick to distribute Staples gift cards to assist families in need of financial aid. At Thanksgiving, supermarket gift cards were distributed to families referred by the Pediatric Oncology Social Workers at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of NY, Winthrop University Hospital and Nassau University Medical Center, among others.

“The goal of our gift card program is to provide assistance to families enduring extreme financial hardships and help ease their burden of providing a holiday meal to their family,” said Matt Weippert. “Day to day life is difficult enough for most of these families; the least we can do is to help provide a holiday meal.”

In December the foundation was fortunate to receive toy donations from the Hicksville Middle School Student Council and the Hicksville High School Student Government as well as donations from the Hicksville High School Ecology and Robotics Clubs. Friends at the law firm of Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, P.C. once again assisted the Foundation with a toy drive and donations to help provide for its holiday programs. Members of the community also reached out during the holidays donating gifts for the children. The foundation was also the recipient of Nok-hockey tables made and donated by the Hicksville High School technology classes under the direction of Catherine Temps.

“Our foundation, along with the children and families we serve, is forever indebted to the generosity of these organizations and all of those involved,” stated Marissa Weippert. “Coordinating a toy drive may seem like an easy task, but it is not. Many hours go into planning, organizing and implementing its success.”

On Dec. 12 the Foundation held its annual Christmas Party for the children and their families. This year’s party included music and entertainment by Kevin Barattini of Barattini Productions as well as clowns, face painting and Santa. All of the children had a great time and each received gifts prior to leaving.

Throughout the past year the foundation has continued its sponsorship of The Bead Program, which allows each child to tell their own unique story about their journey utilizing various colored, glass beads, each representing a particular area of treatment.

“I am always surprised at the degree of emotional response to the Bead Program,” stated Nancy Barbach, LCSW, a social worker for the Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of NY. “Parents of infants as well as older kids describe a feeling of ‘accomplishment and pride’ as they hold their strands of beads knowing that each bead serves to acknowledge, in a tangible way, each step along the way of their cancer experience.”

The foundation also sponsors The Escape Hatch, which is a small “travel suitcase” containing books, crayons, a disposable camera and other items to help a newly diagnosed child “escape” into the world of childhood. The foundation also continues to provide books to maintain the beautifully dedicated book carts provided by the Hicksville Congress of Teachers a few years ago.

“James is an avid reader, and Sarah was also. Providing an entertaining book is something right up their alley and dear to our hearts,” added Matt Weippert.

Ballgame tickets for the Long Island Ducks and New York Mets were provided to the children throughout 2010 and will be continued for the 2011 season to continue providing fun and a distraction to these children. “Everything the foundation does is made possible through the generosity of everyone supporting our events. It is a team effort and we are extremely grateful to all those involved in its success,” said Marissa.

The Foundation, along with all of its programs, helps to ease the burden these families endure throughout their illnesses. Said Barbach, “The Sarah Grace Foundation is simply an essential resource that has assisted so many of our families from basic needs such as payment of utilities, gas and food cards, even funeral expenses, to the smiles they provide with their Holiday parties, baseball tickets, book carts, Escape Hatches and sponsorship of The Bead Program. And those are only examples of the assortment of assistance they provide.”

The foundation has several events coming up, as follows:
Third Annual Sarah Grace Weippert Memorial Blood Drive

Saturday March 26, 2011, 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

William P. Bennett Hicksville Community Center

8th Annual Night of Laughter

Friday, April 8, 2011, 7:15 p.m.

Milleridge Cottage, Jericho
For more information on The Sarah Grace Foundation For Children With Cancer, Inc., please call 433-9745 or visit the foundation’s website at www.TheSarah Grace Donations or requests for information may be sent to the foundation at: 217 Plainview Road, Hicksville, NY 11801.