Our founder, Lucy Grogan, was 12-years-old when she launched her vision of delivering comfort to children with cancer. In her fourth year of treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia, Lucy looked around from her hospital bed in Boston and asked, "Mama, if we're in Chinatown, why is no one receiving acupuncture?" Available to her thanks to the support of her community, acupuncture was one of the only therapies that helped Lucy cope with her pain and nausea. She couldn't believe it was not available to children in the beds around her to help them manage the side effects of cancer treatment, as she learned it was not covered by insurance. Lucy said that when she was "done with cancer," she would make sure that all other children with cancer had access to the same integrative therapies that were so profoundly helpful to her during her treatment. Just six short months after founding Lucy's Love Bus (LLB) from her hospital bed, Lucy passed away from complications resulting from a bone marrow transplant.
Lucy's story of turning her own misfortune into a powerful force for good resonates with children and inspires them to think about their own suffering and how they might help create change in order to heal their own spirits. By getting involved and making a lasting impact through a child-focused charity, children tap into skills, creativity and passion that exist in all of us, but have not yet been awoken or accessed.
When we visit schools, we do a large group presentation including a short video, a children's book about childhood cancer called "A Lion Inside" that was written by our Executive Director, discuss facts about childhood cancer, and introduce the concept of activism by talking about real-life activists. We pair each participating school with a child who is undergoing cancer treatment (known as a "Butterfly Buddy") so that children can put a face and a name to childhood cancer. Children learn about their Butterfly Buddy's type of cancer, the side effects of treatment, their interests, and the integrative therapies their Butterfly Buddy has requested to relieve their symptoms. After the large group presentation we visit each classroom so that children can share their own family's cancer stories, ask questions, and brainstorm ways in which they can raise funds to sponsor their Butterfly Buddy.
Children are encouraged to send pictures and cards of encouragement to their Butterfly Buddy, which is a wonderful exercise in both empathy and the act of extending care and compassion without expecting anything in return. We also talk to children about what they can do about the inequity in funding for childhood cancer research (only 3.8% of the federal cancer budget is allocated to childhood cancers) and invite them to launch a persuasive letter writing campaign to Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute of Health.
When the children have completed their work, we go back for another visit to the school so that we can celebrate the success of the children, and give them an opportunity to present their key learning and share feedback about their experience. During this visit our Executive Director shares Lucy's 3 "Secrets of Life", which are:
1. Who we are at our core is who we will always be. The sooner we truly love and embrace our own uniqueness, the happier we will be;
2. We can choose how we respond in every moment- and these choices we make will have a lasting impact on our lives; and
3. The best way to heal is to shine's one light upon others who are suffering. When we help others, we heal ourselves.
We have run our Lucy's Kid Corps™ program for over 3,000 children to date and have some very exciting partnerships under discussion for the fall, including work with a group of 20 autistic elementary school students in Milton, MA and a new program we plan to launch with the students at Boston International High School.