When you are a child in constant pain sometimes the only way to keep that pain from mentally breaking you is to find a way to use it to lift up and inspire others. That's what Sadie Veselka, 9, of Oviedo, Fla., and Parker Lentini, 14, of Tampa, Fla., have done this holiday season. Both children suffer from rare and serious forms of Juvenile Arthritis. The two friends met in the treatment room at Shands Hospital in Gainsville, Fla., when Sadie was only 5. Parker took the scared little girl under his wing, and the two began helping one another navigate the pain and scariness of treatment day-related infusions, tests and examinations by exchanging jokes, smiles, and high-fives. "It was better when I had a friend," says Sadie, "We would help each other."
One day at treatment, Sadie and Parker cooked up a big-hearted idea to form a nonprofit that would help spread uplifting support and high-fives to as many children with chronic illness as possible. "Parker's mom and I loved their idea," says Sadie's mom Dawn Veselka. "We recognized how much our children need to transform the pain they are feeling into something positive that empowers others. And, as parents of children with chronic illness ourselves, we instantly recognized ways other families like ours were truly in need of extra support."
On Dec. 1, Sadie, Parker, and their moms kicked off a High-5 for the Holidays campaign to raise $5,000 by Dec. 31 in order to help 50 families of children with chronic illness pay for incidental costs associated with traveling to treatments. Funds will be distributed as "High-5 Care Kits," distributed via partnerships with various hospitals, that include prepaid gift cards to help cover the costs of gas, tolls, meals and time-passing entertainment that families incur traveling back and forth on their child's treatment days (expenses not covered by insurance). Many families, already severely emotionally and financially taxed from combating their child's chronic illness, spend an additional $150 or more out-of-pocket every time they go to treatment, with some children needing treatments multiple times per month.
"These families are going through so much already. Our goal this holiday season is to take a little of the burden and worry away," says Dawn, "for kids and their families whose hearts, bodies, (and bank accounts) are weary, while also making it simple and fun for those who donate so they feel like they get an emotional high-five, too".
The organization appeals to individual donors and corporations seeking an easy, straight-forward, high-impact philanthropy option that makes giving feel good. "We aren't a nonprofit that hounds our donors. That's not our vibe," says Dawn. "We trust people to give their dollars where and when it feels good for them to do so. We invite supporters to make a High-5 donation for this holiday campaign and/or follow us on social media if they want, but otherwise, we don't pester people. Because when someone is kind enough to give you a high-five in life, you don't keep asking them to give you another one and another one and another one."
Sadie and Parker, who are both still in treatment themselves, are proud to see their idea becoming real in a big way. "It makes me so happy when people donate," says Sadie. "I love giving Care Kits. It makes people feel good. And that makes me feel really, really good. I hope people will feel like they have a friend."
To learn more about High-5-Club visit: www.high-5-club.org.