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When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the uphill battle ahead extends to everyone in the family. The Children’s Security Blanket aims to ease that burden.

CSB started in Spartanburg in 1999 as a project of the Optimist Club.

“I came across this particular charity a little over 2 ½ years ago,” said Laura Allen, CSB’s executive director. “They had been serving children only in Spartanburg County for 14 years.”

The organization expanded its reach in 2016.

“Now we serve all of South Carolina and the entire state of North Carolina,” Allen said.

CSB helps meet the practical needs of families supporting a child with cancer.

“It’s devastating for any family to have a child diagnosed with cancer,” Allen said. “It’s life-threatening to a family without resources.”

When funds are already stretched beyond the limit, even relatively small expenses can prevent a child from getting access to care. The money it takes to buy gas to drive to treatment or lunch during their stay may simply not be available. Some children require specialized care in other states.

“We make sure they can get there,” Allen said.

Some families find that they need to travel for the first time in their lives. CSB helps them learn to navigate airports and deal with other issues that many take for granted. Needs are personal and varied, like the mom who was sleeping on the couch because there was no bed for her.

“We sat down and figured out the barriers,” Allen said.

Families may need extraordinary help or just a hand with items like baby wipes. And the need continues to grow.

“In this last year, we have added 100 children to our program and that’s before we added all of North Carolina,” Allen said “It’s devastating. We have so many families who are working and making minimum wage.”

Add in the extra gas needed to travel to medical appointments 10 – 20 times in a month and Allen said the burden can be crushing.

“We hug our families and we wrap them in hope and love,” she said.

Children receive a literal security blanket from CSB, but it stands for so much more.

“They actually get a blanket,” Allen said. “That is a symbol for us wrapping them in hope and love.”

In addition to meeting individual needs, CSB sent 50 children – some of whom are siblings of children with cancer – to summer camp. It was a brief time of normality in an otherwise constant focus on medical needs.

“Their ports are exposed, their wigs come off – they get to be kids,” Allen said.

While 82 percent of the families served by CSB are at or below the poverty line, Allen said any child diagnosed with cancer is welcomed into their programs.

“They are all part of the same ugly club of cancer,” she said.

The group sponsors a monthly family night in Spartanburg, with the hope of expanding to other areas of the Upstate. Families have a nutritious meal, children have a craft and parents can engage in facilitated conversations about what they are facing. The cost of gas to attend can even be reimbursed if needed.

CSB is always in need of financial contributions, prepaid Visa and gas cards and personal care items (toothbrushes, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, etc.) that are not covered by the SNAP program. But perhaps most of all, Allen said families need to know CSB exists as a resource.

“We meet with every single family to understand each family’s unique situation,” Allen said. “The biggest challenge is people don’t who we are.”

To learn more, visit www.childrenssecurityblanket.org or call 864-582-0673.

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