Candlelighters Simcoe provides an initial care package upon first connecting with families. These care packages include a variety of items to provide comfort for parents who find themselves at the bedside of a seriously ill child; these include comfort packs, food vouchers, coffee cards, and relevant information (determined by the age of the child and as well as the diagnosis).
Parents have access to monthly parent support group meetings (held on the first Monday of every month, from September to June) where they can share personal experiences, learn about resources, socialize, and have the opportunity to gather information from guest speakers.
Support group meetings are designed to be inclusive of the whole family. While the parents meet, children (kindergarten-aged and up) are invited to participate in an expressive art program with a qualified art therapist. This program is available for both children with cancer and their siblings, and is an open group, with membership varying from month to month. Teenagers are also encouraged to attend, and have the opportunity to earn community service hours through mentorship roles. Babysitting money is also available for families with sick or younger children at home.
Candlelighters Simcoe provides the opportunity for a small group of children to work more extensively with a qualified art therapist through our weekly art therapy program. These sessions allow children to use a wide variety of art media to work through feelings about their own or a sibling’s experience with cancer.
This program is facilitated in small groups of four to six children, meeting for 15 sessions in a given semester. Participants range in age from six to 12 years old. Unlike the art therapy sessions offered at monthly support group meetings, the expressive art program is a closed group, which fosters a safe place for children to work through their feelings. Participants are recommended for the group by their parents and by the Candlelighters Simcoe Parent Liaison. Parents are encouraged to meet with the art therapist partway through the semester to discuss their child’s experience; the therapist will share observations about the child’s use of the art therapy process, and suggest strategies for parents to support the child at home and in school.
Teens whose lives have been impacted by childhood cancer often struggle socially among peer groups who may not be fully equipped to understand or empathize with such an overwhelming experience. Candlelighters Simcoe’s Teen Group provides teens (13 years of age and older) who have been impacted by childhood cancer with a supportive environment in which to relax and enjoy social activities with other people their own age. The group meets eight times a year, and activities are varied to encourage as much involvement as possible. Favourite events include snow tubing, trampolining, and mini golf. Teens are chaperoned by adult volunteers, and the cost of the event is covered by Candlelighters Simcoe.
The Christmas Care Program is provided to families of children on active treatment. The program is designed to bring relief to parents busy with doctor’s appointments and treatment sessions before, during, and after the holiday season. Families are presented with a special Christmas basket filled with baked goods, toys, gift certificates, and groceries, to remind them they are thought of during this extremely difficult time.
In addition to monthly meetings, Candlelighters Simcoe provides families with one-on-one support upon request, in the home, hospital, or clinic. Monthly email updates and quarterly newsletters provide up-to-date information on programs, events, and other resources available to parents and families. Information is also shared on cancer camp programs, Childhood Cancer Canada, Ontario Parents Advocating for Children with Cancer (OPACC), and other relevant agencies.
Candlelighters Simcoe provides bereavement support to parents on a one-to-one basis. This is offered upon request by phone, email, or through in-person home visits. All activities and meetings offered by Candlelighters Simcoe remain open to member families whose child has lost their fight with cancer.
Each year, our local Optimist Club hosts a holiday gathering for our member families in a festive atmosphere, offering a variety of fun-filled activities. This has been a highlight for many families over the years, and is open only to those families who are Candlelighters Simcoe members.
This event provides families with the opportunity to enjoy a special visit to the Chappell Farms pumpkin patch each autumn, to socialize and have fun outside of the hospital environment. This event is provided by the Optimist Club of Barrie, and is open only to those families who are Candlelighters Simcoe members.
Held four to six times each year, these events give parents the opportunity to enjoy an evening out with other parents who share their experience with childhood cancer. These events are currently a pay-your-own-way program, and participants attend as their schedules permit.