When a child has a serious illness, the lives of everyone in the family are affected. It might seem as if the illness sends out ripples of stress, worry and exhaustion that leave families feeling as if they have been hit by a tsunami.
Since the mid-1980s, an organization called Believe in Tomorrow has given such families the gift of a few days away from the relentlessness of the routines that develop around the child’s illness. Believe in Tomorrow was the first organization to develop the concept of pediatric respite programs in the United States.
Local runners have an opportunity to help Believe in Tomorrow serve these families through a 5K race to be held in the Bayside community west of Fenwick Island on Saturday, Oct. 22.
Of the Maryland-based organization’s five properties set aside for families to spend precious “down time” together, three are on Delmarva — two in Ocean City, Md. and one in the Mallard Lakes community west of Fenwick Island. Proceeds from the race will benefit those properties, as well as two more that are being developed as Believe in Tomorrow respite sites.
An additional cottage has just been purchased, on 65th Street in Ocean City, and is soon to be renovated; it will be dedicated to use by military families with critically ill children, explained Elaine Morgan, special events coordinator for Believe in Tomorrow.
Armed forces families often have a particularly tough time when a child has a serious illness, she said, as hospitals are often far from the family’s home and many lack the support services attached to larger civilian hospitals. In addition, families must often deal with the realities of deployment in the midst of a child’s illness and treatment.
In addition to the Delmarva locations, the group’s other properties are located in Maryland’s Deep Creek area and in Asheville, N.C.
“We believe in keeping families together during a child’s medical crisis and that the gentle cadence of normal family life has a powerful influence on the healing process,” said Morgan. “There is such a need for these programs,” she said.
Since 1986, the charity has provided more than 800,000 individual overnight accommodations to families with critically ill children and their families, from every state and more than 82 countries worldwide, Morgan said.
In addition to the use of the resort properties, families staying at Believe in Tomorrow beach respite facilities are treated to a number of donated activities and meals provided by local businesses.
Donations from local businesses help provide Believe in Tomorrow families with beach activities, such as surf lessons, amusement park access, fishing and boating trips, as well as meals from local restaurants. The activities are provided free of charge to the families. All activities are solicited by volunteers and are provided by local businesses.
Morgan emphasized that 95 cents of every dollar donated to Believe in Tomorrow goes directly to the respite services provided by the organization.
The Believe in Tomorrow 5K begins at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22, in the Bayside community west of Fenwick Island. Runners are being encouraged to run dressed in their favorite Halloween costumes. Another way to show “team spirit” is to participate in the Centipede Division and run the race while tied together with friends or family as a unified group.
For more information or to register for the Believe in Tomorrow 5K, visit the website at BelieveInTomorrow.org/5k. The race location’s address is 31252 Americana Parkway, Selbyville.