NJ nonprofit helps kids with cancer, blood disorders during COVID
MAPLEWOOD — Since 1976, the Valerie Fund has operated throughout New Jersey, New York City, and the Philadelphia metro area with the mission of supporting comprehensive health care for children with cancer and blood disorders.
Founded by Ed and Sue Goldstein, who lost their daughter Valerie to cancer at age 9, the nonprofit organization has lent its name and resources to seven pediatric hospitals in the Garden State.
The Valerie Fund also awards scholarships to students going to two- and four-year colleges and vocational schools — 93 of them just this year, at a total of more than $360,000 — and sponsors a yearly, weeklong event held in Pennsylvania, Camp Happy Times.
This year, the COVID-19 crisis prevented Camp Happy Times from happening in the usual in-person, sleepaway fashion it always had, but Valerie Fund Executive Director Barry Kirschner said in response to requests from the participants that they still wanted to see their friends, a virtual camp took place over the past week.
Some of the other COVID impacts on the group's operations have been even more transformative.
"We're getting many more emergency requests to support these families with financial assistance, direct financial assistance," Kirschner said, specifically mentioning prescriptions, living expenses and household support and food.
He said the pandemic is bad enough on its own but with parents furloughed and kids homeschooled, some without access to proper technology to connect with their teachers, the Valerie Fund has had to help families "in any way we can."
That means anywhere between $70,000 and $100,000 doled out, since March, just in the procuring of educational tools alone. And that's been difficult, Kirschner said, because normal fundraising events like walks, runs, and karaoke nights have all been canceled. Those fundraisers can often attract up to 1,000 attendees.
Still, the Valerie Fund has an eye on broadening its support of various programs in the future, once the chaos of this year settles down, and as the organization nears its 45th anniversary in 2021.
"We want to expand upon what we do," Kirschner said. "The fundraising challenges are going to be great because of the environment that we're in, but we're looking for new ways to raise money, we're looking for new supporters."
Of every dollar raised by the Valerie Fund, 83 cents go directly to program support.
For more, visit thevaleriefund.org.