Local nonprofit supports families of children with cancer

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Candlelighters for Children with Cancer supports families of children and teens with cancer

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A cancer diagnosis can be devastating. As a teenager, it can also be shocking — not just for the teen, but for the entire family.

Candlelighters For Children With Cancer is a nonprofit that has continued to support those families during the pandemic. With a new virtual fundraiser, the organization is aiming to raise thousands of dollars to help people like Lydia Tam and her family.

“She was a sophomore in high school, she was very driven,” Lydia’s mother said. “But that spring, she was always tired.”

It turned out Lydia had a brain tumor.

“I  was always the healthiest one in the family,” Lydia said. “It really shocked all of us.”

Lydia’s family traveled from their home in Eugene to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital for treatments. That was when they were introduced to Candlelighters.

“The first thing I see when I walk in the room is a stuffed animal on the bed, and there’s a tag that says it’s a gift from Candlelighters for Children with Cancer,” she explained. “The first thing I thought was, ‘Wow this is great, a bedside buddy,’ and, ‘This is a gift I can give to my sister,’ who was 5 at the time.”

Lydia Tam and her family. Photo: Candlelighters for Children with Cancer

Candlelighters makes sure the whole family is taken care of during cancer treatments for children. The organization helps with things from food to gas to financial assistance with rent or mortgage payments — and special events that connect families going through cancer.

Lydia’s story is in their Cancer Warrior Fundraiser video this month, a campaign called “Light the Way” that hopes to raise $75,000 for the nonprofit.

Lydia is now cancer-free and a medical student at Stanford, with a scholarship partially funded by Candlelighters. She plans to pay it forward and become a pediatric oncologist.

“I want to become someone who can give back and take care of kids with brain tumors,” Lydia said.

You can donate now to the Light The Way campaign. Their website breaks down exactly how your donation will be used to help families.

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