Non-Profit Spotlight: Super Cooper Little Red Wagon Foundation

I have had the great privilege to get to know Justin and Elise Herman a little over the course of the past few months. I am in awe of their strength, courage, and passion. They live and breath the incredibly important and much needed work they do for struggling families on a daily basis. Please take a moment to learn more about Super Cooper, and them, in Elise’s own words. Be sure to register now for their Rockin’ Run this Sunday, it is a great family event for a great cause! Jay

Two short days ago you were told that your 4-year old son was diagnosed with brain cancer.  He just came out of a nine hour surgery and you are expecting that he has at least 2 weeks of recovery in the hospital, and now it has been recommended for you to relocate your child to an unfamiliar city for 6-12 weeks of outpatient treatment to give her the best chance for survival.

  • Will your employer let you take 3 months off?
  • Who will take care of your other children when you are gone?
  • Where will you find a place to live that will be acceptable for your sick child in this city you have never been?
  • You can barely afford your current rent – how are you going to pay for a second home?
  • Where do you even start?

The Super Cooper Foundation’s goal is to empower these families to strengthen these children by providing them a comfortable home to stay during treatments at UNC and Duke Hospitals, as well as provide an array of support services and a sense of community.  Pediatric Brain Cancer affects the whole family.  As a result, the Super Cooper Foundation’s desire is to reduce the financial and logistical strains for these families so they can focus on their child and fighting this non-discriminating disease.

Founded on Personal Experience

coophouseSuper Cooper’s Little Red Wagon Foundation grew out of Elise and Justin Herman’s experience as their son, Cooper, was treated for brain and spinal cancer. They saw parents sleeping in chairs in hospital rooms or struggling with hotel and food bills while trying to focus on their family’s needs.

“The home has been well utilized. It has been a safe haven and a place of rest and warmth and peace for many families going through a tumultuous time.”- Dr Stuart H. Gold, M.D. Professor, Pediatrics Hematology/Oncology – UNC Medical Center

The foundation has two dedicated apartments at the Ronald McDonald House in Durham to serve patients at Duke and one townhouse in Chapel Hill for families receiving care at Duke or UNC hospitals. At a ReCOOPeration house, a family can enjoy a meal delivered from families in the surrounding community, watch TV and spend time in an environment that is safe, clean, private and welcoming for their child, who may have a weakened immune system because of radiation or chemotherapy.

  • 28,000 children in the U.S. are living with a brain tumor diagnosis.
  • 4,600+ children are diagnosed with a brain tumor every year in the U.S.
  • Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children 1 to 14 years of age.  (National Cancer Institute)

Why the Red Wagon?

The foundation’s name, Super Cooper’s Little Red Wagon, comes from the Hermans’ experience during Cooper’s repeated hospitalizations.   When Coop was just 2 years old, the wagon became his chariot, his legs, and his reliable mode of transportation while he took countless trips up and down the halls of each hospital.  No matter which cancer hospital they were visiting, the little red wagon was a common thread and a symbol of hope and perseverance.

What’s Next

The foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its goals include:

  • Addition of 2 housing units by 2015 to help meet current demand
  • Raising $100,000 in 2014 and $750,000 by 2018
  • Supporting six apartments or a stand-alone house by 2018.

2014 Event

The Rockin’ Run has grown each year, with more than 500 participants in 2013 and more than $80,000 raised. cooprunRegistration opens at 1:00 for our September 20th event and festivities start at 3 p.m., and conclude with live music on the Southern Village lawn into the evening. The event will feature a food truck alley and action-packed activities for kids and families, from a giant slide and mechanical bull to a mobile gaming unit, just to name a few.

Family Relocation Expenses

Securing short term living arrangements for a family required to relocate to other cities for life saving treatments can be time consuming and mentally daunting.  This coupled with the high costs associated with obtaining suitable and furnished housing for one to three months along with medical expenses and a potentially a loss of wages can be financially staggering for many families.

The following exhibit represents a typical six week radiation treatment scenario that a child diagnosed with brain cancer will undergo.  The exhibit provides the typical daily and monthly expenses his/her family will experience if it were not for the Super Cooper Little Red Wagon Foundation and their ability to provide a convenient home away from home as well as many other support service such as food, fuel cards and parking passes.  The nearly $6000 in total expense illustrated can literally put a family in an unrecoverable financial position when they need all their resources possible to focus on the health and well being of their family.

6-Week Radiation Treatment Scenario

2 bedroom Furnished Apartment Rental/Hotel: Daily Cost: $89.66 / 6 Week Cost: $3,900

Hospital Daily Parking (30-week days): Daily Cost: $8 / 6 Week Cost: $240

Increased Food and Preparation Cost:

• Forced to eat out

• Purchasing the odds and ends you already have at home to make a meal

• Cleaning supplies, toiletries

Daily Cost: $20 / 6 Week Cost: $870

Utilities (cable, water, electric, gas) Daily Cost: $10.34 / 6 Week Cost: $450

Fuel Cost (lengthy trips home on weekends or for other parent or caregiver) Daily Cost: $8.28 / 6 Week Cost: $360

Total Expenses: Daily Cost: $136.28 / 6 Week Cost: $5,820

Other Expenses or Loss Considerations

Lost Wages – for the caregiver staying with the child: Daily Cost: $60-$250 / 6 Week Cost: $1800 – $7500

Childcare – care for other children while parents away from home: Daily Cost: $60-$100 / 6 Week Cost: $1800-$3000

Entertainment/Activities – for children away from home: Daily Cost: $5 / 6 Week Cost: $217.50

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