Grief over the death of their daughter led a North Westmeath couple to set up the Katie Nugent Fund, one of two charities which have just joined forces to launch a new community cancer support service for children with cancer and their families.
The partnership between the Cancer Fund for Children and the Katie Nugent Fund will see the roll-out of four new cancer support specialist roles nationwide to provide social and emotional support to families across the island of Ireland affected by a diagnosis of childhood cancer.
One of the specialists will focus on Cavan/Westmeath; another on Dublin and surrounding counties; a third on Cork and surrounding counties and the fourth on Galway and surrounding counties.
Support will be provided to young people aged 0-24 diagnosed with cancer, of which there are on average 340-360 each year.
The Katie Nugent Fund was founded by Nick and Alice Nugent of Ballinlough in 2011 after their six-year-old daughter, Katie, died a year earlier after a courageous battle with leukaemia. The fund raises aid to provide psychological and emotional support to children attending the National Children’s Cancer Service at Children’s Health Ireland in Crumlin (St John’s Ward) and their families, throughout their treatment.
The Katie Nugent Fund has worked with the Cancer Fund for Children for over two years to plan and develop this new service. In April this year, they recruited their first Cancer Support Specialist based at the National Children’s Cancer Service in Children’s Health Ireland in Crumlin to provide informal emotional and social support to children under 16 diagnosed with cancer and their parents.
The impact of this work is being independently evaluated by Trinity College Dublin. In addition to this, another role will be recruited to provide support to older young people who are hospitalized, recognizing the unique set of needs of this age group.
Cancer Fund for Children has over 40 years experience of providing this model of support to children diagnosed with cancer in Northern Ireland, where they have an established team based in hospitals, the community and at their treatment center short-lived, Daisy Lodge in Newcastle, County Down. The charity is committed to ensuring that every child affected by cancer on the island of Ireland has equitable access to services, a vision and commitment shared by the Katie Nugent Fund.
“Charities coming together to work in partnership to support children, young people and their families is the only way to make this happen, it is a much needed and exciting endeavour,” said Neil Symington, director of services at Cancer Fund For Children.
“A cancer diagnosis affects the whole family and we understand that beyond the excellent care provided in hospital wards, the need for ongoing emotional support for the whole family is important. Together with the Katie Nugent Fund, we are committed to providing flexible, relational and needs-based support. The fact that the needs of siblings and extended families can now be met by a team working in the community goes a long way towards our ambition to ensure that no family faces childhood cancer alone.
“The ambitions of the Katie Nugent Fund are closely aligned with those of the Cancer Fund For Children and these community nominations have been made possible through the time, effort and money of many different people. Having seen the benefits the service already offers within the National Children’s Cancer Service at CHI in Crumlin, I am delighted to deploy these four community specialists nationwide. All of this will hopefully bring immeasurable benefits to many families for years to come,” said Alice Nugent of the Katie Nugent Fund.
Community staff will work with diagnosed children aged 0-24, their siblings and extended families through informal therapeutic social and emotional support, in their own homes, communities and shared care centers.
“This new community cancer support service across Ireland will have a major positive impact on young people diagnosed with cancer in Ireland and their families. I am personally very pleased that this service is being developed and am extremely grateful to the Katie Nugent Fund and the Cancer Fund for Children for developing this desperately needed service,” said Dr. Cormac Owens, Consultant Pediatric Oncologist at the National Children’s Cancer Service. and board member of the Cancer Fund for Children.