Today we’d like to introduce you to Kerri Steele.
Kerri, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
In February of 2010, my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Our children were 2, 4, and 6 at the time of his diagnosis. He passed away on Christmas Eve of 2012.
It was one year after his death that I was praying and fasting as I sought the Lord on how I was to lead my family going forward. During that week I believe the Lord gave me a vision for a children’s program that would support children and families who had a cancer diagnosis in their home. I knew that I needed help talking to my children about their father’s diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately his death. Counseling was very cost restrictive and wasn’t always an option.
I could think of no greater way to heal my own broken heart than to use the pain I had experienced to help others going through the pain of a cancer diagnosis. Little Hearts of Hope was born out of a desire to help children who are watching a parent or sibling undergo cancer treatments and to help them deal with the anticipatory grief when that loved one is not getting better. I also wanted to help strengthen family bonds and build trust between parents and children as they took this journey together.
It took seven months for this program to become a reality, and I have become a student all over again! I had to learn everything from the ground up in starting and operating a nonprofit. I continue to learn more and more each day as the program expands and the needs of the business grow. Little Hearts of Hope has been serving children for close to 4 years now, and our numbers continue to double in size each year. I am where I am today by the grace of God and a lot of hard work and determination.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
At the most basic level, my biggest struggle was that I had no business experience! I had to learn everything about starting and operating a nonprofit. I spent more time researching and studying with a focus I wish I had had back in college!
As I look back on that first year, and even over the course of the last four years, I see how smoothly God paved the way for this work to be done. It is so encouraging to me to see how the people I needed at the time I needed them got behind the mission and shared their skills and talents. It continues to amaze me how the willingness to step out of my comfort zone and share the struggles my family had while my husband was fighting cancer has inspired a similar passion in others to help make this work a reality.
On a personal level, doing this while intensely grieving and helping my children through their own grief was a very difficult balancing act. One that I still have to deal with today. Grief does not just go away after a year. Grief is revisited often and in new ways, and in very different ways for each of us. It gets very messy at times, but I imagine that raising three kids would be messy regardless!
We’d love to hear more about your organization.
Little Hearts of Hope is a nonprofit that comes alongside families when there is a cancer diagnosis. We serve children who have a parent or a sibling undergoing cancer treatments through the Hope Package Program.
We teach creative expression as a coping skill to these kids and share with them what the Word of God says about the big emotions they may experience throughout the cancer journey. Each month highlights a different emotion that is common for children who have a medical crisis in the home. Emotions such as loneliness, abandonment, anger, and jealousy are all very normal feelings. It is helpful for parents to know what to expect and for children to be empowered by learning coping skills to deal with each of those emotions.
Each package contains two activities along with all the materials needed to do the projects. Kids look forward to their bright purple package each month, and parents appreciate the help in talking about cancer with their children. These packages help strengthen family bonds and build trust between the parents and children. The key to this program is that we mail these packages to the children. This protects the immune compromised family member and allows the families to work together when it is convenient for them.
It brings me great joy to hear from families that tell me how much the Hope Packages are helping them get through this cancer diagnosis. Knowing that the things I sought out to help my children and couldn’t find are now accessible to families all over the country and that the program is doing what I hoped it would do is beyond exciting! I am also so honored when other nonprofits and businesses see the value of the work and come alongside us to help reach more hurting children.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I had to start over again, I don’t think I would do anything differently. As I tell my children, there is no greater lesson in life than learning how not to do something and then trying again with those lessons learned! Life is a constant learning experience, and starting a business is no different. Take the risk, step out in faith, and watch God move!
- Hope Package Sponsor is $35 a month
- Sponsoring a child is $455 a year (13 packages)
- Address: 9720 Coit Rd. Ste 220, #216
- Website: www.littleheartsofhope.org
- Phone: 9727302235
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LHOHlittleheartsofhope/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/LHOH_Hope