A Message from Our Executive Director
Happy Holidays! The holidays will look a little different this year for many as we face limitations due to the pandemic. While large families gatherings may not happen, we remember that we don’t have to be together to be a part of a community.
You’ll read about Mary Grace’s Senior Capstone project, called “Together Apart”. I love this name as it is the cornerstone of Better2gether’s message to our families and our community. Though we may celebrate the holidays apart, we are still brought together by the common desire to support children with complex illness and their families – the pandemic cannot change that.
You have allowed us to provide continuity and assistance for families facing the most challenging time in their lives. Thank you for being an important part of a community that allows our families to be Together yet (safely) apart. May you and your family have a safe and happy holiday!
Giving Tuesday (December 1st) is a “global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world.”
- on our Facebook Page (@Better2getherrva)
- or online (www.better2getherrva.org)
Adopt a Snowflake
Just Like Snowflakes, Our Better2gether Children Are Unique!
There is still time to join us in sharing holiday cheer with our families! We are planning a very special holiday party for our very special families while following strict, safety COVID guidelines.
Here are a few ways you and your family, your business, or community group can be involved in spreading holiday cheer for our families!
- Adopt a Snowflake – Purchase toys and other items for our children. An Amazon Wish List will be posted on our Better2gether RVA website. Here is the Amazon Amazon Wish List & Amazon Need List
- Wrap Gifts – Wednesday, December 9 from 2:00-4:00pm or Thursday, December 10 from 2:00-4:00 pm, Reveille United Methodist Church, 4200 Cary Street; Richmond, VA 23221
- Decorate for our Holiday Event – Friday, December 11th 2:00-4:00pm
- Volunteer at our Socially Distanced Holiday Event – Scheduled for Saturday, December 12 at 10:00 am
- Make a financial donation to Better2gether RVA
Please contact Stephanie Becker at stephanie@better2getherRVA.
Fun surprises and various need items are arriving every day in preparation for our Holiday Event on December 12th.
We are so grateful to the Mounayars, one of our very special Better2gether families, for contributing a sack full of gifts.
As the oldest of six children, Mary Grace Walsh is a devoted and hands-on sister. She treasures her family and the time they spend together. When her brother, Christian, was diagnosed with Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease as a young child, he missed a great deal of school and required multiple surgeries. Mary Grace recalls feeling helpless as her brother experienced medical challenges. “A lot of people took care of our family during that time,” she shares, “But I frequently felt left out or like I couldn’t do anything important to help.”
This experience inspired Mary Grace to create “Together Apart,” a project that provides mentorships and art workshops for medically complex kids and their siblings. While developing and implementing a service project is a requirement of her senior year as a student in the James River High School’s Center for Leadership and International Relations, “Together Apart” is clearly a labor of love. “Remembering how isolated my brother was when he had major surgeries was a huge factor in my development of this project,” she shares. “However, I also remember what it felt like to be the older sister who was helpless when he had surgeries.”
Mary Grace hopes that her project will culminate in an exhibition at the Children’s Hospital of artwork by medically complex kids and their siblings. “I am very passionate about kids and about art, so this is the best of both worlds for my Capstone,” she shares.
“Together Apart” will include many kids and families served by Better2gether. Mary Grace was introduced to Better2gether by her Capstone advisor, Dr. Robin Foster, as well as by Jan Kirby at VCU Children’s Hospital. Mary Grace is grateful to partner with Better2gether families, sharing, “This has been such a great partnership and I am so glad we found each other!”
Of course, like most things in 2020, Mary Grace’s plans have been impacted by the global pandemic.
“COVID has significantly altered my Capstone plans! I wrote my Capstone proposal back in June when I was still hopeful that this pandemic could be over by the fall, so the art workshops were planned to be in person, along with the gallery event,” she explains. “Actually, the gallery event was supposed to be a culminating night of fun, food, and art, similar to a gala. However, in the interest of protecting Better2gether kids and limiting the spread of COVID, these plans had to change.”
Now, the art workshops will be all virtual and Mary Grace is working on a new plan for the gallery. “It originally was very frustrating to not have these things in person, since I have had a vision of my Capstone for a very long time. However, I believe that this project is even more necessary because of COVID,” she reflects. “I’ve learned lot about being flexible and tempering my expectations through this project, and I’m so excited to see it all come together and actually involve kids!”
Recently, Mary Grace was able to attend a virtual Better2gether music therapy session to get a better sense of the work of Better2gether and the families it serves. “I really enjoyed interacting with some of the Better2gether kids and dancing and singing with them,” she explains. “Honestly, it was therapeutic for me too – I enjoyed having the chance to slow down and dance and it reminded me why I am doing this project.”
To learn more about Together Apart, please visit Instagram @togetherapartproj
Community First presents Christmas Under the Clocktower
sponsored by Clocktower Realty and Eventfull RVA
This first year event invites 10 local charities to participate in a festive opportunity to spread the holiday spirit and raise awareness and funds for nonprofits.
Each charity decorates a Christmas tree that is placed at Main Street Station and our community votes for their favorite tree. The tree with the most votes wins $2,000 and second place wins $1,000.
A QR code will be in front of each tree at the station, and one vote = $1. There is no limit on the number of votes you cast or the number of times you vote! From December 5-13, head down to Main Street Station to see our beautiful tree and vote for Better2gether! Starting December 14th, we will send a link in which you can vote online through December 20th, and the winner is announced on the Community First Facebook page on December 21st.
I hope you will bring your family to Main Street Station to see the Christmas trees and vote for the Better2gether tree! Or vote online from the comfort of your home! Enjoy a fun, festive and meaningful way to support Better2gether this holiday season!
*Thank you to Ann Mitchell, Ashley Foster, D.D. Bascom and Katie Zacherle – the incredible team that designed and decorated the BEST Christmas tree of 2020!!!
An easy way to support Better2gether is to shop through Amazon Smile and select Better2gether as your charity. AmazonSmile is a simple way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. Sign in to smile.amazon.com on your desktop or mobile phone browser. Go to Your Account and select the Charity. Better2gether will be listed as an option. As a result of you shopping through Amazon Smile, Amazon will donate a to Better2gether for every purchase you make!
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 can meet the needs of these deserving families and children.
About Better2gether RVA
While support services abound in Richmond for families of children fighting well-known illnesses like cancer and juvenile diabetes, currently nothing exists for families of children battling more rare and complex illnesses. Better2gether RVA, is dedicated to the belief that all families of children battling illness — regardless of their diagnosis — deserve access to resources and support services. Since 2017, the organization has provided mentorship, counsel and recreational programming for families of children diagnosed with complex medical illnesses, plus valuable resources for treatment and its associated costs. Learn more at www.better2getherrva.org.