For any parent, a child's cancer diagnosis is heartbreaking. For Pam and Jack Cooper, that diagnosis is what brought about their decision to create Kids Living Brave, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids who have been diagnosed with cancer, and their families.
The Coopers' son, Carson, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 8. Their daughter was 14 at the time, and Pam Cooper says that it affected her greatly.
"Our world changed in an instant and we were thrust into the world of pediatric cancer with our 8 year old son," Pam Cooper told Clive News. "We spent the first 28 days straight in the hospital after diagnosis. We would have sleepovers at the hospital and that became our new normal."
Six months after Carson started treatment, the Coopers decided that they wanted to help others and share lessons learned and tips along the way.
The organization offers support, BRAVE bags that contain items that can help both patients and family members to cope with the treatments and other issues that come along with a family member dealing with cancer.
"My favorite part of KLB is putting together the BRAVE bags and personalizing for each child and delivering them, and getting to meet and help families. It's also my saddest part. A piece of me goes back to how I felt and how incredibly lost I was," Pam Cooper said. "Having someone who understands what you're going through really makes a difference. We are lucky our child made it through, while so many do not have good outcomes. This 'new normal' can be very isolating even if someone has a good support system."
The couple runs the nonprofit organization from their home and has focused on helping individuals and families in Iowa specifically.
"I'm proud that we are local here to Iowa. We wanted to fill needs that we could see and feel the impact," Pam Cooper said. "Each day I always connect with other parents online. I have made friendships and bonded with so many amazing people with whom I never would have met had it not been for my son's diagnosis."
The organization has nonprofit status and is wholly a volunteer organization, including the board of directors.
Carson is now 14 and in remission. He is a freshman in high school, enjoys sports, has his driver's permit, and his own DJ business. His older sister is now a junior at ISU and a member of the KLB board of directors too.
To learn more about Kids Living Brave, visit kidslivingbrave.org.