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2011 Top-Rated Nonprofit

The Heart Connection

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Cancer, Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services, Youth Development

Mission: We enhance the quality of life for families connected through childhood cancer, and create opportunities to learn, play, and share.

Geographic areas served: Iowa and surrounding states

Programs: To provide summer camps and one day special activities for children with cancer and their families. Programs in this area include family camps, oncology camp, sibling camp, mid-year mini camp, and family events.

to provide support services and information for children with cancer and their families. Programs in this area include club hope, the survivorship connection, lending library, online support program, and adopt a family.

to provide hospital based programs which provide support for children being treated for cancer. Programs included in this area are arts and crafts, end-of-treatment party, beads for bravery, poke box, and treatment binders.

Community Stories

42 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Heart Connection has been a lifesaver for our family. We first found out about it when our son Brandon (13) was in his second year of treatment for brain cancer. Brandon went to oncology camp and Courtney (11) and Jordan (8) went to sibling camp. Brandon passed away at Christmas that year (1996) and the loss was devestating for our family. The kids continued to attend sibling camp. It was such a wonderfully loving atmosphere with them and they were able to spend time with other kids who understood exactly what they were experiencing. Eventually Taylor who was three at the time of Brandon's death started going to camp as well. Courtney is 24, Jordan, 21 and Taylor turned 16 this month and he is currently awaiting another week at camp. There's not enough words to express the love and support my children receive at camp and how that love carries over from year to year. They can't wait to go back. Courtney and Jordan go along to take Taylor so they can touch base with old friends. The Heart Connection is truly a wonderful resource and I'm so thankful for the opportunity for my children to be a part of it.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

We love the Heart Connection Summer Camp program! My son Jim was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 5 1/2 and he started going to camp when he was 7. He is now 14 and still loves camp! It is a safe place, for kids to connect with other kids, who are going through the same thing...dealing with cancer. The kids don't stare at you when you have a bald head, a port sticking out of your chest, or you are missing a limb. My son hopes to one day be a camp counselor, and help other kids who are fighting the battle with cancer, to enjoy the summer camp experience in a safe environment. Thanks Heart Connection Camp staff for all you do!

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

I can't remember a time that heart connection wasn't part of our lives. My son was diagnosed 15 years ago, and although he is now all grown up, Heart connection is still there, supporting our family. My daughter still goes to camp every year and attends as many of the events as she can. When she can no longer be a camper, she intends to become a counselor. She has developed long term friendships at camp that are important to her. Heart connection has helped my children become people who care about others, and I will always be greatful.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Heart Connection is an awesome program for our family. We are able to join with other people around the state to share our joys and trials and get support from people who understand us very well. The summer camps allow my boys to get away from the stress of daily cancer fighting and be free to enjoy themselves. We really love the year round gatherings and look forward to each get away.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Heart Connection is an amazing organization that shows kids who are fighting cancer that they are not alone. This group of wonderful volunteers brings these kids and their families together through many different types of activities throughout the year and lets us ALL have fun! They show the kids who are fighting day after day to be normal, that they can be normal. They can go to camp for a whole week and do all of the things other kids are doing during for the summer and still be safe. They have qualified counselors and staff available to make sure these kids are well taken care of and have the time of their lives!!! My 9 year old daughter, who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 4, finally went to camp this summer and came back a whole new girl. She realized that with all she has been through, she can't wait to be able to help kids with cancer just like the people with Heart Connection have done for her. And as much as they have done for her, they have also done as much for us as a family. We try to participate in the different activities that are offered to us through the Heart Connection, like family camp or a day at Adventureland Amusement Park, just so we can reach out to other people who are going through some of the same things we have been through. We understand and can relate. The Heart Connection has given us all a lot to be thankful for, especially them!!

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

There is no organization like the Heart Connection Children's Cancer Programs. A cancer diagnosis brings the world to a halt. And then it starts to spin. Doctors, procedures, hair loss, nausea, waiting for test results and dealing with insurance. But the outside world really doesn't halt. Simple things like going to work, making dinner, getting kids to school keep going. You try to hang on, you try to let go. You try to breath, you try not to drown. And you try to keep the other kids' world running, along with the marriage. And through all of that, there is this incredible organization, the Heart Connection. They invite the entire family to the most fun activities imaginable, they feed us, they put us around other families in the same boat, and they do it all for free. They provided some of the rare "fun" times that we couldn't manage in the midst of juggling it all. And then there is camp. A week for oncology kids with doctors and nurses and volunteers who come back year after year. The fragile child is handed off into the most capable hands that even we overprotective parents feel safe. Feeding tubes, ports, wheelchairs, they deal with it all and turn no one away. And then they go even further. A week for the siblings. The overlooked ones who we struggled just to keep fed and clothed and going to school. The ones who wonder why they can't go to the hospital and get all that attention too. They go away for a magical week each year, with those wonderful volunteers who have watched them grow over the years, who have become a second family. And they smile and wave goodbye, independent and safe for a week of pure spoiling. The stuff I couldn't do. And even 12 years post cancer, they still invite us to their activities. We still go to family camp and summer camp. And it brings back all that we went through and all that we survived and gratitude for it all. At this point in my child's recovery, I still go to these activities to stay clear, to remember what is important in life, and how fortunate we are. I love this organization with all of my heart. so much so that I even open my wallet to them, which is not something I do often as a single parent of three. My goal each year is to give them more than last year. They just gave to us, they continue to keep giving to us, with open arms and undaunting smiles. May you never face childhood cancer, but if you do, move to Des Moines, Iowa. This organization is worth it.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

This organization is so close to my heart. The Heart Connection has offered support to me and my family when my daughter was diagnosed with cancer at 5 months old. This organization has connected us with other families who have also been impacted by this terrifying disease. The Heart Connection offers continuous opportunities for children diagnosed with cancer and their families to have fun and smile during and after treatment. We are forever grateful to The Heart Connection!

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Heart Connection has become like a part of our family. I don't know what I would have done with out thier support since my Daughter was diagnosed with ALL 2 years ago. They have been there for my other children when I couldn't and the many different programs they have for families of children with cancer are amazing. Thank you so much!!

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Heart Connection is an incredible organization that brings families together in supporting childhood cancer. The support they provide for the kids going through cancer and the families that this affects is unbelievable.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Heart Connection provides numerous programs not only for the child but their family as well. It gives kids opportunity to be kids at oncology camp as well as allowing siblings their time away from it all.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Heart Connection first changed my life when my baby brother was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 1996, and has made my world a better place every day since then. Their support while we were going through treatment was invaluable, but the support they have given us in the time since my brother has been in remission has been amazing. There are few organizations that exist to help families navigate a post-cancer world, and the Heart Connection does it best!

6

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our son was diagnosed with ALL in January of 1994 when he was 8 years old. The Heart Connection was a blessing for our family in that it gave my wife and I much needed repite time when our son went to their oncology camp. He always had a fantastic time at camp and every year he would watch for the camp application in the mail so he wouldn't miss getting into camp. This is a wonderful organization that also provides a camp and other programs for siblings of chilren living with cancer. Many times the siblings feel left out because so much attention is focused on the child with cancer. Just a wonderful organization that does so much good in our world!

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

We were introduced to The Heart Connection 6 years ago when my son was diagnosed with cancer. They have given our family outings that we would have never been able to afford. The camps they hold are top notch and the support they give the parents, children and siblings is incredible. A great organization that cares about the WHOLE family!

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have been involved with the Heart Connection since I was diagnosed with Leukemia in 1989 at the age of 9. The Heart Connection is the bright spot in a very hard time in many children's lives. The Heart Connection focuses on not just the cancer fighter, but the siblings and parents too. Programs are in place to support the needs of the entire family throughout and after their cancer fight. I have made numerous friends who continue to be very special to me through the survivorship program. I also volunteer for this wonderful organization every chance I get.

6

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Heart Connection is an amazing camp that has helped me so much in my life. I live to go to this camp in the summer mostly because i don't have to worry about anything while i'm there. Everyone there knows what it's like and will talk to you about anything. Going to camp is a time to get away from friends, family, and most importantly doctors. The things we do at camp is amazing! we get to do everything and more that you would usually do at a normal summer camp. Not only are the campers great friends but the staff is amazing and are some of my great friends now. I have been going to this camp for 10 years and am also going back as a staff member now that I am to old to be a camper. I love this camp so much and I don't think i could imagine life without the Heart Connection.

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter, 14 months old when diagnosed with cancer has been a family member of the Heart Connection Children's Cancer Programs since the day she was diagnosed. This organization is a family, once a member, always a member with services that not only serve my daughter, but also her siblings and other family members. Camp is someting that she looks forward to every year, along with the many activities that are offered throughout the year involving families and friends that can only understnad you. I can't say enough, The Heart Connection is there any time when needed for support, advice and just plain fun and is definitly a part of our extended family.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter was diagnosed with cancer 2 years ago and Heart Connection has played a big role in our lives throughout her treatment and even after including them helping with Club HOPE, Camp, beads for bravery the list could go on and on. They make lives for families who have children with cancer to much better and they make sure to include siblings as well. They truly care about the kids and the families.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

I've gone to the Heart Connection for 11 years now and it is truly a part of me. It makes me who I am and helps numerous kids, like me, deal with cancer and make the truest of friends they could ever even imagine having. Even the people on staff are friendly, nice, loving, hugable people. (and who doesn't love hugs?) I LOVE THE HEART CONNECTION =]]

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

I had always heard about the Heart Connection growing up, but I really didn't know much about it until my own son was diagnosed with brain cancer. The Heart Connection stepped in and forever became a part of our lives. From all the fun activities, camps, beads for bravery, Club HOPE...the list goes on! The volunteers that dedicate their time are truly amazing! This organization truly cares about the kids and their families!

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Heart Connection Camp is a place that is impossible to describe its meaning and magnitude. The organization works so hard all year long to touch hundreds of children's and families' lives in and out of Iowa. I've attended the Oncology Camp since I was five and have been there for 14 summers, and I am still in awe of the experiences I've had. It's a week where kids with any type of cancer, regardless of the stage of their treatment, can go and be kids. They don't have to worry about being gawked at because they have no hair or they have only one leg. These kids get to have a week all to them, and just be a normal kid. The staff works incredibly hard to get every kid to participate in everything possible. I've seen a girl in a wheelchair do the zipline, and kids with prosthetic legs ride a horse. These kids can choose to ignore the fact that they have cancer, or they can bond with those around them who know what's going on. I've seen a group of young girls talk about their ports and what they named them. It's an incredible week, that for many of these kids, is one of the best weeks out of their year. It's a loving atmosphere where kids can talk with others who can truly say "I understand."