Rainbow Connection in helping mode for holidays
BY LAUREN BARTHOLD
OU News Bureau
For many, the holiday season and giving back go hand-in-hand.
The Rainbow Connection — based in downtown Rochester — makes dreams come true for Michigan children with life threatening illnesses and provides additional support services to those families in need.
“Rainbow Connection wish children are referred through hospitals and specialists throughout the state and sometimes by the family themselves,” Executive Director Mary Grace McCarter said.
“Many are referred from the doctor or social workers. The life-threatening illness of a child is always verified in writing by the treating physician prior to our contact with the family.”
This year, the nonprofit organization is raising money and awareness in an especially festive way.
“The Big Bright Light Show is celebrating its 10th birthday,” McCarter said. “The birthday wish is to make dreams come true at The Rainbow Connection. Text wishes to 80077 and $10 will go to make dreams come true for kids and your phone bill will reflect $10 charge. It is quick and easy and secure,”
In addition, an annual Toy Drive started the day after Thanksgiving and goes until Dec. 23.
“Gifts are distributed to our families at our annual holiday party for each wish child and all their siblings, too,” McCarter said. “Gifts are also given throughout the year during wish meeting visits or to bring a special smile to a sick child through our Happy Pack program.”
Charlotte’s Wings — another local nonprofit — plays a big role in that party.
“We have provided a holiday book for their Wish Family Holiday Party for the last four years,” Director Jennifer Buck said.
The organization was created in 2007 when five-month-old Charlotte Tarling died of Alexander’s Disease, an incurable brain tumor.
“To honor Charlotte’s memory, her parents looked for an opportunity to assist other children facing illness. They decided to donate hundreds of children’s books to a local hospital in tribute to Charlotte,” Buck said. “It was this simple act of generosity by Charlotte’s family during a time of unimaginable grief that inspired Charlotte’s Wings.”
The Rainbow Connection has a Special Response Program, which offers referral and financial support linking families to needed resources to ease the burden of having a child with a life-threatening illness.
“Support could include assistance with car repairs, household needs, linking with community resources when additional support is needed, or just being listing ear for the family in their time of need,” McCarter said.
The organization provides additional enhancements to the families, such as tickets to local sporting and entertainment events, holiday party with gifts for the children, a summer picnic and college scholarship program.
“We also have a college scholarship available to all our wish children,” McCarter said.
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