Why eamf? That’s a question I am asked frequently and don’t always know how to answer. It started with an idea that stemmed from a need. Someone had to step up and address the need, to shine light on the situation. So, why not me? And subsequently, why not eamf?
When my daughter was in the 7th grade, a good friend of hers fell gravely ill and was admitted to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where she stayed for several months. After many subsequent visits to CHLA, I was inspired to become a volunteer. I have always loved being of service to others. In fact, I was given he nickname “Nurse Jane” by the time I was 5 years old; cornered the market on babysitting in my neighborhood by age 13; was a camp counselor with the Muscular Dystrophy Association for 2 years while in high school; worked at preschools every summer; studied Child Development in college; and raised two very strong independent daughters. Being around children was second nature to me, so becoming a volunteer at a children’s hospital was a no brainer.
After donating close to 3200 hours over a 5 year period, and working with seriously ill children in various departments of the hospital (Bone Marrow Transplant, Pediatric Intensive Care units, Cancer and Transplant wards), I knew that there was more for me to do. I saw a need firsthand, which was not being addressed by the hospital, medical staff, or parents. I watched as parents became overwhelmed by the seriousness of childhood illness. I watched families begin to crumble amid the chaos of the health crises. And most importantly, I watched as the brothers and sisters of the patients retreated into a darkness of fear, loneliness, and uncertainty.
These circumstantially neglected siblings were experiencing grief, anger, abandonment, fear, guilt and sadness. They were suffering in silence. I felt it was of the utmost importance that I apply my heartfelt passion, energy and resources to take action and start the conversation about the Sibling Situation and work toward finding a long lasting viable solution to their dilemma. Thus, in April of 2009 the Elizabeth A. Mac Donald Charitable Foundation was founded to address the issues that families with children in health crises face. I have surrounded myself with like-minded, highly skilled and focused individuals who share my passion to help make eamf’s mission successful. I am very proud to say that we are the only nonprofit organization in the nation that focuses solely on the wellbeing of siblings, and not just siblings of children in hospitals, but all brothers and sisters of children battling any health crises, whether physical or mental.
eamf is spearheading the movement to bring these invisible siblings out of the background and into the light so that they can get the care and attention they need. Our vision is that siblings grow into adults with increased empathy, patience, kindness and goodwill because of their experiences growing up with a brother or sister battling a physical or mental health issue.
We cannot heal all of the emotional scars of pediatric illness on our own, but we aim to limit the size of the wound. And with a little help and support, I believe we have a good chance of doing just that.