Happily Ever After League
Writer Peni Long
Being a mom is a challenge in itself, one that requires dedication, energy and a caring attitude. Being a mom with cancer creates an even bigger challenge, as treatments and their after-effects take their toll. The Happily Ever After League (HEAL) was founded expressly to ease those effects and assist mothers recovering from any type of cancer with at least one dependent child living at home.
Since its inception in 2004, HEAL has helped more than 1,000 moms, never turning away a qualifying mom in need. Every year, 70 or more new clients find HEAL’s support and hope for happily-ever-after endings to their stories.
HEAL was founded in 2004 by Lauren Daniels after she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 35. Lauren had a bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction surgery and a hysterectomy. At the time of her surgery, her children ranged in age from 1 to 11.
“Although I felt very lucky to have a wonderful support system of family and friends to help me, I realized that although cancer is never welcome at any age, being a mom with cancer and children to care for comes with a whole different set of obstacles,” Lauren says.
Lauren’s breast cancer diagnosis brought her to her life’s work.
“I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and my experience with cancer as a mom inspired me to start HEAL,” she says. She decided to start the Happily Ever After League just six months after her cancer diagnosis, and continues to be inspired every day by the mothers who come for help and healing.
Referrals to HEAL come from a network of sources, including social workers and medical establishments throughout the Phoenix area. No mom is ever turned away. There is no financial hardship bar to cross, and no limit to the help provided. Lauren and her colleagues know first-hand that medical debt from cancer treatments can last for years. So far, the average gift card to a mom in need is $500 — an amount that can help a mom in so many ways, if only to lessen worry for a time, pay rent, buy groceries or provide something special for her children. Amounts gifted vary depending on the success of fundraising efforts.
As Lauren knows from her personal experience, “The entire family unit is directly affected by cancer. A cancer diagnosis can financially devastate some families, and it can become difficult to keep up with the everyday living expenses. We do whatever we can to relieve some of that burden.”
One comment that sums up the impact of a helping hand is posted on the HEAL website: “I received the gift cards in the mail and I cannot tell you what an answer to prayers you are. This is huge for us and we will not forget. Keep doing what you do for others.”
Lauren is committed to doing just that.
In addition to monetary assistance, another way that HEAL helps is through activities at the HEALing House. Opened in 2007, this house now welcomes moms and their families for regular monthly events ranging from pampering the mom with spa days, to hosting pantry days for those who might need extra goods, to having family-oriented events, especially around the holidays. For those attending, these times away can be an important part of renewal and interaction with others undergoing the same experience.
“The goal of the HEALing House is to improve the quality of life for mothers and their families while dealing with the challenges of a cancer diagnosis,” says Lauren. “We provide programs for moms, dads, teens and children, and our monthly social and educational events offer a safe, warm environment for all participants.”
One very special member of the house is Lord Hamilton, a pampered pig sure to scamper into the hearts of house visitors. As the official director of emotional support, Hamilton definitely does lord it over Lauren, volunteers, moms and families. He is just one more of the ways HEAL can help put a smile on someone’s face and perhaps, just for a moment, erase the worry that cancer can bring.
If you would like to help HEAL, you can send gift cards in any denomination, especially needed during the holidays to pass along to moms to give as gifts to their children. Gift cards can be sent to HEAL at 11445 E. Via Linda, Ste. 2-493, Scottsdale, 85259.
Mark your calendars for the organization’s first New Year’s Eve Ball on December 31 at the Scottsdale Marriott at McDowell Mountains. And if you really want to plan ahead, set aside April 9, 2017 for the Fairytale Tea at the Camby Hotel. Lauren treasures this fundraiser as the signature event for HEAL.
“It is a magical day with hosted tables in various fairytale and storybook themes,” she says. “It is a day that simply cannot be explained, but must be experienced.”