Candlelighters bring ‘bedside buddies’ to kids with cancer


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Candlelighters, a local non-profit that helps families of children with cancer, serves families all over the region who may have to travel to Portland for treatment.

The Pelsons family. (Courtesy: Pelsons)

One of those families is the Pelsons — a tight-knit family of six from Grants Pass. When Anna Grace Pelson was diagnosed with cancer in February 2020, it was a big blow.

“Nothing prepares you for that and I think you are in shock,” Anna’s mother Karissa described.

Anna Grace was 14 years old when she was diagnosed with bone cancer. That kicked off a series of chemotherapy treatments and surgeries — all hours away from home at Doernbecher in Portland, where she always had a surprise waiting for her.

“I would get a [stuffed] animal during all my chemos and that was something I would always look forward to,” Anna said. “It was hard to be up there, [but it was] super sweet to get a toy… to have something fun to look forward to.”

Turns out these bedside buddies were from Candlelighters. But the non-profit didn’t stop there, the chapter lead in Southern Oregon reached out to the Pelson family to make sure they were all taken care of, even down to their frequent road trips to OHSU.

“She also blessed us with these gas cards to get to the chemos because it was weekly — five days, five nights, we’d come home for two days and turn around and go back up,” Karissa said.

Candlelighters also introduced the Pelsons to other families going through childhood cancer, which they say was a lifeline.

“Meeting other families, that was so special for all of us to get to know the people in the hospital,” Karissa said. “All of the other people in Candlelighters.”

To see all of the stories we’ve done on Candlelighters during this National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, visit KOIN 6 News’ Positive Vibes section.

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