January is a time of resolutions and new beginnings. For me, January is a time of celebrations with many family birthdays. In 2004, our family was blessed on January 9th with our third daughter, Chelsea Anne Hicks. She came with flair and excitement, and was a bundle of joy from the beginning. Her big sisters were able to give her very first bath and present her to me all cuddly and clean. Unlike the births of our other two daughters, there were no complications or hospital time associated with Chelsea’s birth, and we were so grateful. We resolved to enjoy family even more than ever.
In 2007, Chelsea was diagnosed with Wilms’ Tumor Cancer when she was only 3 years old. It was a shock to all of us that after being so healthy for her first three years she would have cancer. We could not have imagined when she was born the changes that would take place. Chelsea was all about play and fun and battling cancer didn’t change that for her. She had been trying on my shoes for years and her older sisters had been dressing her up like their own doll since she was born and she loved it! During treatment at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Chelsea saw another little girl her own age wearing an adorable dress with a wide purple ribbon tied around her head because she had also lost her hair. From then on, Chelsea decided that she needed to bring her dress up clothes to the hospital each visit so that she and her new friend could play dress up. It was so fun to see the kids play like they weren’t battling such a horrible disease. The giggles and smiles they had were contagious to anyone watching them celebrate their tea parties and parades around the floor. Chelsea’s cousins, Morgan and Malerie, were at the hospital almost daily to play dress up with Chelsea and really helped us to see the benefit of dress up and play to the entire family.
Unfortunately for our family and the family of the adorable child Chelsea had admired and played with, our sweet little girls could not beat the cancer that plagued them. They passed within weeks of each other in February 2009. But in all of our grief, we kept looking back at those memories of the smiles and giggles the girls had and shared with their family and friends they met on the floor. Those memories are some of my favorite because you could see the pure joy in the girls’ smiles and at that moment it didn’t matter that they had cancer, it was simply play time and some of the best therapy for their souls.
The joy of those dress up times are what sparked the Chelsea Hicks Foundation and Chelsea’s Closet. We knew how much it helped Chelsea’s treatment to have something to look forward to that didn’t involve needles or hospital medical procedures. It helped her to just be a kid and laugh and giggle, when she was feeling yucky from the medications. Our resolution from that time on was to bring hope and healing to families battling a life threatening illness through dress up and play. We knew that the power of play helped our little girl when she needed it most and we wanted to share that with as many kids and families as possible.
The Chelsea’s Closet program has been a success at both Doernbecher and Randall Children’s Hospitals since it was launched in 2010. The hospitals have asked CHF to expand the program to additional days and to develop another therapeutic play program. We are thrilled to do this. In taking on the additional program days, it has focused us to find funding to support and grow CHF’s stability. I know that we will succeed in growing and expanding our programs and each year our resolution is to reach more children and their families battling life threatening illnesses and to provide laughter and smiles though our dress up and play program. There are many ways to support our efforts , volunteer at our warehouse, join Chelsea’s Closet visits at the hospitals, work on a committee or see if your company will partner with CHF for financial support, hold a costume drive or craft supply drive, and attend our Masquerade Ball in October. Helping CHF to achieve our resolutions each year might just be the new beginning you were looking for. As we celebrate Chelsea’s birthday on January 9th we will remember the joy our new beginning gave us and what it inspired.
May your families be blessed with health and happiness,