WILTON, Conn. -- Bags of Love and Art from the Heart sound like the ingredients of a recipe for a hug.
They are names of special programs that give support to Connecticut families with a child being treated for cancer.
The programs, along with financial support, are provided through Circle of Care founded a dozen years ago by two Wilton mothers who first met in a support group when their own sons were diagnosed with pediatric cancer.
This year marks a milestone for the nonprofit, said Liz Salguero, the organization's president. Cofounder Dawn Ladenheim is treasurer.
Volunteers recently finished the 100th Art from the Heart room renovation, Salguero said in an interview.
Teen and adult volunteers transform rooms for kids ages four to 17 into a personal haven, she explained.
"Once they leave the hospital, kids spend a lot of time in their rooms. It's a boost for them but also for the entire family."
Circle of Care provides practical, emotional and financial assistance to Connecticut families while a child undergoes treatment.
Their sons, Carlos, at three and Dan, at 10 both were being treated for cancer when the women first met.
They were able to share the devastation of receiving the diagnosis and "tremendous impact" treatment, not just on the kids, but the whole family, Salguero recounted.
Most people think of the emotional devastation cancer news brings to families. There is a huge financial impact as well, she maintained.
"Usually one parent has to drive their child three to four times a week to a hospital and spend hours, mostly the whole day there so often times one parent has to give up their job, a job that may be the bigger earning one, though not the one with the health insurance.
Even with insurance, there are "huge copays," upwards of $30,000 a year, she said.
So Circle of Care through fundraising efforts provides an Emergency Funds program.
This can pay for over-the-counter medications copays, costs not covered by insurance, and other expenses, from mortgages to utility bills.
"Overnight your life changes," said Salguero.
The Bags of Love is literally a bag filled with everyday needs like a blanket, deodorant, phone charger, toy, pen and journal for kids at the hospital.
There is no time to plan or pack when parents learn the news. "Usually children go into the hospital right away. Parents don't even have time to grab a toothbrush, and especially not the things the child needs that comfort them," Salguero said.
Families whose child got a room makeover are seen giving testimonials in a Circle of Care video on YouTube.
The mother of a teen with leukemia hospitalized 11 times a few years ago said their daughter's room makeover "gave her her something to look forward to."
"To get a call like that, that somebody at random was thinking about you and wanted to do something nice for you, just lifted all of our spirits."
"It was so positively emotional, impactful," the Dad added in the segment.
Click here for more information about Circle of Care.
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