Meet ‘Candlelighters for Children with Cancer’

This year, Candlelighters for Children with Cancer marks its 40th anniversary. Below, Candlelighters Executive Director Jackie Groah shares how the organization got started and who it serves.

Candlelighters’ beginning

 In 1977, five families who spent months living in OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital while caring for their children with cancer realized that there were few services that supported the whole family – their shared experiences helped shape our organization, which supports patients’ entire families.

Candlelighters founder Joan Hill says their goal was to help families who felt they had nowhere to turn when their child was diagnosed.

Joan Hill, Candlelighters founder

Joan Hill, Candlelighters founder

“When my daughter was in the hospital, it was other families in similar situations who gave me good advice and strength to handle the ups and downs,” she said. “When my daughter got better, it was my turn to help other families who were in crisis.”

Over the years, the organization has grown from a one-person, home-based office into a statewide organization with offices in Portland and volunteer-led chapters in Central Oregon, the mid-Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon.

“It was always my hope that a cure would put this organization out of business, but until that happens, I am so proud that a little nonprofit that was founded to help a few families in the 1970s continues to provide a community of hope for families battling pediatric cancer today,” Joan said.

Candlelighters has partnered with OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital for 40 years. Through our long collaboration, we have served thousands of family members affected by childhood cancer.

By the numbers

Candlelighters is a local nonprofit organization that provides hope, healing and light to families affected by the emotional and financial hardships caused by childhood cancer in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Families receive comfort in local hospitals through catered family meals, a 24/7 food pantry and a weekly snack cart. Some families depend on Candlelighters for monthly family experiences, emergency financial funding or bereavement support.

In 2016:

Celebrating 40 years

In the last four decades, Candlelighters for Children with Cancer has served 80,000 family members. This year, Candlelighters is hosting the Cancer Warrior Breakfast, a no-cost event where community leaders can learn more about Candlelighters’ mission to serve the whole family when a child is diagnosed with cancer. Join us on Thursday, April 6, from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. at the Oregon Zoo.

Click here to register, become a table host or become a sponsor.

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About the Author

Lisa McMahan is a social media coordinator working to discover and share stories at OHSU. Got a story idea? Connect with the team: socialmedia@ohsu.edu.
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