“I don’t think of all the misery, but of all the beauty that remains.” -Anne Frank
As trite and clichéd as it sounds, the harsh and brutal truth is life is tough. And during tough times it helps if there are people we can turn to and lean on for support. One such group is Amanda the Panda who, from their base in West Des Moines, Iowa, bring hope and healing to families, and children in particular, dealing with the death of a loved one. Amanda the Panda’s Family Grief Center started back in 1980 when Amanda the Panda began visiting children living with cancer and bringing warm and wonderful bear hugs, a huge heart and a listening ear.
The response to such visits was so amazing and appreciative that it paved the way for the development of a week-long, residential summer camp for children living with cancer. Then after around four years, the Children’s Cancer Connection took over Camp-A-Panda and today continue to provide children with this extraordinary opportunity.
As the years have passed, the vital and incredibly important service Amanda the Panda provides has expanded and now it is part of the compassionate non-profit services offered by HCI Care Services and Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa; a partnership that enables Amanda the Panda to serve even more families and children across Iowa.
I heard about Amanda the Panda after some personal family losses and cannot praise their work and invaluable support enough. When at work we were asked if there were any non-profits we wanted to support, naturally I thought of Amanda the Panda and jumped at the chance to help them in any way possible.
Every year Amanda the Panda organizes “cheerboxes,” a box filled with 12 carefully chosen items which is then sent to each grieving family on the first birthday or holiday without that person. It is hoped that the “cheerbox” will bring the family together to celebrate and remember their loved one. Roughly 150-200 of such boxes are sent out annually, so I decided that perhaps this was where I could focus my fundraising efforts.
I began by dividing my SumTotal office colleagues into 4 teams – Customer Service, Engineering, Sales and Lead Generation and then, as an incentive to get everyone to be a little more generous, I made it a competition with the winning team, i.e. the group that donated the most funds, to each receive a free 15 minute chair massage. I personally covered the cost of these massages to ensure that all money raised went directly to Amanda the Panda. This year, I am delighted to say that our corporate office has offered to match what we raise, so I will be encouraging my colleagues to get out there and generate as much support as they can.
So far the response from my colleagues has been overwhelming and I am grateful that with their help, I can in some small way pass this along to others during life’s more difficult and tough times.