Tell us about yourself.
My name is Lisa Goodwin and I am Co-founder and Managing Director of Connor?s Heroes Foundation, a local nonprofit whose mission is to build a community of heroes who provide hope, guidance, and support to children with cancer and their families. I didn?t start my career in the nonprofit world. In 2003, I was a full-time environmental attorney when I was told that my 22-month old son, Connor, had leukemia. Once Connor successfully ended his treatment in 2006, Connor?s Heroes began to help other families through their journey of childhood cancer.
What is the focus of your work and the need you are addressing?
Our vision is to make fighting childhood cancer a journey a family never faces alone. Currently, Connor?s Heroes provides assistance to children and their families who are being treated for cancer at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and the VCU Massey Cancer Center Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. On average, 100 families receive services through Connor?s Heroes each year.
By building relationships of trust with patients and their families, we learn about each family?s situation. We have developed five programs in the last eight years to remove stressors and support patients and families. These programs are:
- Heroes Bags & Backpacks provides age-appropriate, practical and comforting supplies and resources to patients and families at the time of diagnosis.
- Superheroes and Sidekicks eases the isolation and burden of cancer by matching children (either patients or siblings of patients) with trained mentor buddies.
- Bone Marrow Transplant Unit Support includes patient room decorating, the Room of Possibilities where families can enjoy time together, patient gifts, and friendly visits.
- Helping Heroes Program provides volunteers to help with individual family needs such as coordination of meal delivery, grocery shopping, housework, and child care.
- Bereavement Support provides continuing support to families during their grief journey, including financial assistance through the Heroes Angel Fund to help parents properly say goodbye to their child.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I know that we are truly making a difference in the lives of families who are battling childhood cancer when parents, with tears in their eyes, tell us how grateful they are for our help. I am proud that we have been able to build an organization that is able to connect with families in such a personal way. I also love that we provide opportunities for our ?community of heroes? to volunteer and lend their support in all kinds of ways.
Tell us about your biggest accomplishment in this position?
My proudest moment was when we established the Connor?s Heroes Pediatric Cancer Research Fund (started in 2007 and named in 2013). I was shocked when I learned that childhood cancer is the #1 disease killer of children, but funding for research is minimal compared to other cancer types. I was also surprised that no one in Richmond was conducting pediatric-centered research. After many years of meetings, raising money, and working with the VCU Department of Pediatrics and VCU Massey Cancer Center, I?m thrilled that our goal of bringing a nationally recognized pediatric cancer researcher to Richmond is just around the corner. Our initial endowment fund became fully funded last year and the Connor?s Heroes Pediatric Cancer Research Fund will be used to provide direct funding for the research that will be conducted. I couldn?t be more excited or more proud to be a part of this!!
What?s coming next for your organization that really excites you?
We are embarking on our 10th year of operations. Ten years! We?ve grown into a well-respected nonprofit that doctors, social workers, and other families recommend to parents when they first learn their child has cancer. There are 2 other things that really excite me right now. (1) We are organizing a group of amazing Young Professionals to collaborate with us to help promote our efforts and assist with exciting fundraising events; and (2) The Heroes Art Ball on May 1, 2015 is our 5th Annual Gala that brings together our childhood cancer heroes and the community who supports them.
How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?
In addition to sharing information about our events, learning about initiatives of our other nonprofit partners, and gaining useful information about nonprofit management, we are especially grateful for the ability to post our job openings. We recently went through a hiring process for a Development Director and simply posting on ConnectVA provided us with a multitude of wonderful candidates!
Anything else you would like to share?
We are always looking for dedicated volunteers to help us with our mission. To register to volunteer, or to learn more about what we do, please visit http://www.connorsheroes.org/