In 2011, Emily Ratliff and her husband Kevin Ratliff learned that their daughter Claire had been diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer. Their friends, family, and an army of supporters rallied around them, providing food, hugs — and lots of help. In 2012, Claire passed away, but her army marches on. Over 200 children are diagnosed with cancer every year in the Charlotte area, and whenever that tough news hits, Claire’s Army steps in.
“We realized that everyone didn’t have this level of support, and that what we had was quite an anomaly,” Emily Ratliff says. “We want to do the things that people did for us.”
Basic things, like drinking coffee out of a mug rather than a Styrofoam cup, or having a hot meal when she couldn’t be home to cook, helped Ratliff feel more human and gave her family more time with their daughter. That’s where the idea of Claire Packages started. Through the program, families at both Hemby and Levine children’s hospitals receive a utility tote filled with bath towels, dryer sheets, dish soap, gift cards, journals — things that are inaccessible at a hospital that make hard times a little more bearable.
Meals help, too. Since 2014, they’ve delivered close to 5,000 meals to families in hospitals. Since 40 percent of families with these diagnoses deplete their savings within the first two years of treatment, money also helps. Through donations and funds raised through galas and pancake breakfasts, Claire’s Army also provides mortgage support, gas cards for those with long commutes, and other financial assistance.
“We want to do something helpful and keep stress levels as low as possible,” Ratliff says. For more information, visit clairesarmy.org.
The HEARTest Yard
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