In 2015, Jenny Yessaian’s children, Mikey and Emily, begged for her permission to set up a hot chocolate stand outside their elementary school
in San Marino, California. Yessaian and her husband,
George, suggested they donate the proceeds to a
cause. Mikey and Emily, now 12 and 11, respectively,
decided they wanted to give care packages to kids
whose parents had cancer, and Help with Hope was born.
HOW YOU CAN VOLUNTEER
These organizations also offer support to kids
and teens whose parents have cancer:
• Kids Konnected runs support
groups and camps for kids dealing
with a parent’s cancer diagnosis.
• Lacuna Loft provides online support
programs for teens and young adults
caring for a relative with cancer.
Do you know an extraordinary
person who’s giving his or her
time to the cancer cause?
Email Volunteer@Cancer TodayMag.org.
We may feature the person in a future issue.
PHOTO BY FRANCES TANG
A parent’s cancer diagnosis can begin a
scary period in a child’s life, says Yessaian,
a senior product manager at Novartis
Oncology. Kids may have a difficult time
adjusting to changes in routine or may
struggle to understand why Mom or Dad
looks or acts differently or needs to spend
time in a hospital. Through her work at
Novartis and the time she spent as a nurse
in a pediatric oncology unit, Yessaian
noticed that there weren’t a lot of resources
to help kids cope with the stress of having a
sick parent. “We discussed this huge, unmet
need, and as a family we decided to do
something about it,” she says.
The Yessaians’ initial goal was to raise
enough money for 100 care packages
in their first year. They prepared and
distributed these packages themselves,
giving them to kids whose parents were
being treated at the nearby USC Norris
Comprehensive Cancer Center in
Los Angeles and other cancer centers
in the area. Each care package contains
a stuffed animal, an age-appropriate
book walking the child through having a
parent who has cancer, and either a col-
oring packet (for young kids) or a journal
(for older kids).
Corporate sponsorships and community
partnerships allow the Yessaians’ organization to keep on giving. “It costs over $500
to ship 35 care packages,” says Yessaian.
Help with Hope ( helpwithhope.org)
has distributed more than 1,000 care
packages to kids around the world. But
Mikey and Emily have an even loftier
goal: to help every single kid whose
parent has cancer. Yessaian says that
Help with Hope has been a great learning
experience for the entire family, reinforcing for her kids “the importance of being
the change you wish to see in the world.”
—LINDSE Y KONKEL
The National Cancer Institute has produced a publication called When Your
Parent Has Cancer that aims to guide young people through all aspects of a
parent’s cancer diagnosis.