MARYSVILLE — Jessica Beckstrand knows what families are going through when their children are patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Especially in cancer care.
Beckstrand’s daughter, Layla, was diagnosed at 18 months old with high-risk neuroblastoma, which targets the nervous system.
Layla is turning 5 in March and recently celebrated two years since completing treatment. Altogether, her medical care would have cost the family around $3 million.
Thanks to the kindness of strangers, the bills were covered.
Now the Beckstrands want to help others like them.
Jessica Beckstrand has started a new nonprofit called Strong Cares Guild. Seattle Children’s, which has a clinic in Everett, is affiliated with 16 guilds supporting its “Strong Against Cancer” initiative.
“You don’t really think about anything when your kid’s in the hospital, but once treatment was done, I thought I understand these parents and these kids, and I can give advice,” Beckstrand said.
The Strong Cares Guild, based at her home in Marysville, is focused on financial aid for families as well as research into pediatric cancer treatment.
So far, there have been a few garage sales, and more events and fundraisers are planned. Members are drawn from throughout Western Washington and they hope to add to their ranks. There is no time commitment for volunteers, though there are monthly meetings at the hospital.
Those gatherings may move farther north as membership grows, Beckstrand said.
As the guild’s president, she’s also looking for business sponsors and donated items for future auctions.
Before Layla got sick, her mother had volunteered with service organizations, mostly those focused on homelessness.
Beckstrand remembers feeling like she didn’t truly understand the lived experiences of those she was trying to help.
With the guild, it’s different, she said. She’s been there with Layla.
“We put in over 14,000 miles in one year driving to and from the hospital for her appointments, in-person stays, radiation, surgeries, you name it,” Beckstrand said.
When she inquired with hospital officials about ways to give back, they recommended assistance for families who are traveling to Washington to participate in clinical trials.
Beckstrand also wanted proceeds to go toward research into cancer treatments specifically for children.
Too often, it seemed like the chemotherapy drugs made for adults were simply scaled down for little ones, she said. The guild supports both those missions.
These days, Layla’s in preschool, and her brother, Owen, 7, is at Sunnyside Elementary. Students there recently organized a fundraiser for the guild that’s collected $287 and counting.
Both Beckstrand’s children are big fans of the Avengers series. She is thinking that a showing of the new “Captain Marvel” movie, which has a female lead, sounds like a great outing for a fifth birthday.
The Strong Cares Guild is affiliated with Seattle Children’s Hospital.
To learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the “Strong Cares Guild” page on Facebook.
For information about other ways to support the hospital, including joining or started guilds, go to www.seattlechildrens.org/giving.