A Message from Our Executive Director
Summer is here and for Better2gether that means the return to in person events! We are so excited to begin offering our families the opportunity to gather in a safe environment and reconnect with each other after a prolonged period of isolation. It was incredible to watch the joy and laughter the children experienced at the first Summer Bash series this weekend, and we have our community to thank for making that happen!
We have more opportunities to gather in the future and look forward to reconnecting with our volunteers and donors – in person! While we have fun and exciting opportunities ahead, the past year has created more demand for Better2gether and the support we provide. Unfortunately this has forced us to place children with a medically complex illness on a waiting list until we can financially support the additional families. We need you, our community of support, more than ever! Thank you for making a difference in the lives of children and families!
Likes: Brooklyn loves arts and crafts. She also loves watermelon and avocados.
Dislikes: She’s not a fan of math, and she doesn’t like bananas or tomatoes.
Therapies Received: Brooklyn receives IV medication every 5-6 weeks, as well as specialized infusions every 6 months, and a weekly shot.
Eight-year-old Brooklyn loves to learn and she also loves caring for others. It’s no surprise, then, that she aspires to become a doctor one day. Because of her own experiences with complex medical challenges, Brooklyn has learned a lot in her young life about the roles and responsibilities of healthcare providers. She has also learned first-hand about the importance of kindness and connection from doctors, nurses, and therapists. “From time to time, she will ask me to lay down so she can perform surgery on me,” shares her mom, Latisha. “She is very creative and has made items to represent IV bags, IV tubes and needles.”
Brooklyn’s passion for learning is evident to all who know her. “She loves to learn and she sets high expectations for herself regarding her school grades,” Latisha explains. “I find her staying after class to attend additional instructions when she can.”
The middle of three children, Brooklyn is a kind and caring sister to Amari (age 6) and Charisma (10). “She is affectionate and really big on giving hugs and kisses to her family and friends,” Latisha shares. “She has a very nurturing spirit about her.”
“Despite her condition, Brooklyn has been very positive throughout the process,” says Latisha. “She looks forward to her hospital visits and enjoys the special treatment she gets from the nurses and staff members.”
When Brooklyn was first diagnosed with Dermatomyocitis, her mom didn’t know what to expect. “No parent wants a sick child, and I was unsure how it would impact our family and her life going forward,” Latisha recalls. “There were so many thoughts I had during this time on what our new normal would be like as a family and how I just wanted to take this disease away from Brooklyn if I could.”
Brooklyn’s initial treatments required frequent outpatient hospital visits that lasted many hours. During one of these appointments, Latisha was approached by a nurse who asked if their family would be interested in a Better2gether Smile Buddy. “I really didn’t know what it meant at the time,” Latisha shares. “But when you are going through a crisis such as this, any kind of support is helpful.”
“Every month, a Smile Buddy would show up and dedicate several hours entertaining Brooklyn while she was getting her treatment,” says Latisha. “This took the load off of me so I could concentrate on work or even take a nap, and Brooklyn certainly enjoyed the attention!”
“But it didn’t stop there,” Latisha shares. “I started receiving calls (from Better2gether staff) just to check up on Brooklyn. It means so much to me to know someone truly cares about me and my child. I’ve received several emails for support groups and it’s comforting to know I have resources available if I need them.”
During the pandemic, Better2gether delivered fresh produce, soups and toys to Brooklyn and her family, made possible by generous community partners and community members. “They were so helpful in offering support,” says Latisha. “And adding that special touch with gifts for Brooklyn and her sisters meant the world to me and my girls.”
Last month, Brooklyn, her sisters and their mom attended the Better2gether Summer Bash. “I must say, it was amazing!” says Latisha. “Better2gether took the time to make sure everyone had a great time without sacrificing safety. We all want the best for our children. We know they have conditions that may prohibit some activities, but we want to make sure that they can still enjoy their lives and have fun just like any other child. And Better2gether accomplished that.”
“I appreciate all that Better2gether has done for our family,” shares Latisha. “We look forward to attending more events in the future!”
WAYS TO BE INVOLVED WITH BETTER2GETHER
Better2gether Corn Hole Social
Sunday, July 18th – 2-5 pm
Hardywood Craft Brewery, 820 Sanctuary Trail Dr, Richmond, VA
In the spirit of in-person gatherings, we miss seeing you! Stop by this Sunday at Hardywood West Creek for the Better2gether Corn Hole Social and relax with us while playing corn hole or just enjoying Hardywood’s ample selection of craft brews! We hope to see you there!
July Jam – Better2gether Summer Bash Series
Saturday, July 24th – 10am -12 noon
Reveille United Methodist Church – 4200 Cary Street, Richmond, VA
Please consider purchasing items from our Amazon Wish List to make our Better2gether Summer Bash Events extra special for our families.
3rd Annual Better2gether RVA Cares 5k – September 18, 2021
September 18, 2021 – 8am to 12pm (Race starts at 9am)
Gayton Elementary School – 12481 Church Road, Richmond, VA
WE NEED YOU!
We are excited to bring this family friendly event back, and in-person on September 18th. This is an important way Better2gether raises funds to provide the Programs and fun activities to families and as well as access to our Resource Coordinator. The pandemic caused many additional challenges for our families and they need Better2gether more than ever. Help us provide the programs, events and support they are seeking by forming a team and inviting your friends, family, church and co-workers to join you. Have double the impact with Team fundraising efforts to benefit Better2gether. We appreciate your support as we strive to grow the resources and activities we are able to offer families of children with medically complex illnesses in RVA. You can be a part of making that happen.
Sign up today: www.rvacares5k.com
The Better2gether RVA Cares 5k is a unique event that brings together our families with the community that supports them. We can’t provide this awesome day without our valuable sponsors. Your sponsorship will help Better2gether provide financial relief, outpatient therapies, legal resources, and mental and emotional support. Funding also supports our important programming such as Music Therapy, Gas and Grocery gift cards and Moments Support Group to name a few. Please consider becoming a sponsor and impacting the lives of kids with medical complexity in RVA.
Thank you to our sponsors: Call Federal Credit Union, Anthem, Dominion Payroll and Express Oil Change. We appreciate you!
Better2gether Summer Bash Series – June Event
A fun time was had by all at our June Jubilee! From decorating flower pots, playing games, and eating lunch, our families enjoyed just being 2gether again.
One of our B2G moms, Sandra, commented that “Today filled my bucket, and my kids were thrilled. Thank you for bringing joy to us. We appreciate you greatly.”
Link to View More Pictures from the Event: https://photos.app.goo.gl/6CRwtty8aHzPYbBt9
Art Love was founded just over a year ago by Ava and her family. Ava explained, “I started fifth grade this fall and arts and crafts have helped me in life. Sometimes, when I am scared of Covid-19 or overwhelmed with my school work, I do arts and crafts to calm me down. They are very fun to do and I am hoping other kids who have similar feelings would be able to use the art kits we donate to feel better when they are anxious.”
We were thrilled to partner with Art Love who provided art supplies and conducted a wonderful workshop for our B2G families at our June Jubilee. Our children decorated flower pots and then filled them with various plants. A very BIG thank you to Ava and her mother, Julie Rajappa, for offering so much “art love” and joy to our families!
Thank You to Our Community Partners & Supporters
Our community partners and individual donors continue to offer their generous support of our B2G families and helped make our June Jubilee even more special.
- Reveille United Methodist Church provided their beautiful, outdoor pavilion.
- Seasonal Roots donated boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Susan & Josh Zebley took fantastic photos of our B2G families.
- Tate Fitness Studio, Lewis Ginter Botantical Garden along with Kelly Preus, Owner of Fantastic Sams (Willow Lawn location) contributed various prizes, garden passes, and gift certificates for our raffle.
Kiwanis Club of Midlothian-Chesterfield
Club members shared their enthusiasm, smiles, and generous support of our families.
We are so grateful for the Kiwanis Club of Midlothian-Chesterfield who volunteered their time and provided lunch along with books and bubbles for our B2G children. Special thanks to Jim Friedline who coordinated the volunteers as well as various donations.
Connect. Support. Educate is the central role Better2gether plays for the families we support. Making critical connections to community resources is an integral way Better2gether can change the landscape of caring for a child with medical complexity. Recently Better2gether was able to help the Dunbar family acquire a much needed chair lift, giving their daughter the ability to access her bed upstairs while recovering from surgery and placing her closer to her Mom as she supported her day and night. Holly was so excited and grateful for the chairlift and tells us how much it meant to their family:
“My daughter Cameron had her 10th knee surgery over the Christmas break and I thought how wonderful it would be to have it (chairlift) so Cameron did not spend months sleeping on the sofa and me on the loveseat. Not having to sleep on a loveseat sofa for months waking every three hours to give medication after surgery- I felt like I had won the lottery! Only parents of kids with special medical needs know what I mean. Cameron ended up having a minor surgery on one of her knees a few weeks ago and the chairlift was a life saver. I can’t thank Stephanie and Melinda for helping us get the chairlift and for all the wonderful things Better2gether does for all the families.”
PLEASE CONSIDER DONATING TODAY!
There are thousands of families in RVA caring for a child with a medically complex illness who have no non-medical support. Please consider donating today so Better2gether RVA can meet the needs of these deserving families and children.