Every day, hundreds of thousands of people are treated for cancer around the world, and here in Kingston, a new service is about to become available for those mothers undergoing cancer treatment.
Thanks to a large investment from Homestead Land Holdings, the Nanny Angel Network is coming to Kingston in the summer of 2019.
The Nanny Angel Network was founded in 2009 by Audrey Guth, who realized there was a need for further support for families where the mother has been diagnosed with cancer. Guth, a wife, mother of four, and entrepreneur, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. During her own treatment, Guth observed many young mothers struggling to manage the demands of treatment with the never-ending needs of their families.
“I was running a nanny agency in Toronto that placed nannies across Canada and we unfortunately…” Guth paused in contemplation. “You’re going along with your life and you hear those word ‘you have cancer.’”
“While I was sitting in a treatment area at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, there was a young woman sitting next to me with a child on her lap who was pulling the scarf of her head and I saw the tears well up in her eyes,” she continued. “It was as if I had an ‘Aha moment.’ I then thought ‘I can help this mom.’”
The Nanny Angel Network is the only non-profit organization in Canada dedicated to providing free, in-home specialized relief childcare for mothers in all stages of cancer – from diagnosis to recovery, or during the palliative care and bereavement periods. The organization gives children the tools to cope with their mother’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as the possibility she may die. According to the organization, by addressing the long-term emotional and psychological impacts of a mother’s cancer, they are able to reduce risk factors and help children grow up to lead healthier lives.
It was an extremely emotional moment when Britton Smith, founder and executive chairman of Homestead Land Holdings presented a cheque worth $300,000 to Guth and the Nanny Angel Network.
“It is definitely personal to me,” said Scott Topping, COO of Homestead Land Holdings. “My wife, Leah, who also happens to be the Kingston Champion for Nanny Angel Network, brought the idea forward to me and the company. I felt it was definitely worthy of our support.”
“I am the Kingston champion, so I am a volunteer just like the volunteers we are looking for. I heard about Nanny Angel Network and was attending their gala and getting involved in Toronto. I just happened to meet Audrey through a mutual friend, and she informed me they were looking to expand to Kingston,” continued Leah Werry, Kingston Champion for the Nanny Angel Network.
“I didn’t think twice! Right in the middle of lunch I told her I’d be her Kingston Champion.”
Leah explain that the organization provides specialized trained relief child care. The volunteers that are a part of the network have some form of professional childcare backgrounds, and they receive further specialized training in helping children that are going through these types of crisis situation in their families.
“The children we help usually have a lot of stress and anxiety in their lives, especially teenage adolescent girls and younger boys. We find that those are the children that often experience the most stress when their moms are going through cancer,” Werry said.
According to Leah the nannies are providing relief child care, not just to support the moms, but to also provide a safe environment for the kids.
“It’s someone for the kids to ask those questions that maybe at home they can’t ask. Things like ‘How sick are you?’, ‘Is this my fault?’, ‘Are you going to die?’” Werry explained, noting that the service will hopefully become available in Kingston in the early summer.
“They can ask the Nanny Angel, who has been trained in how to help those children in a very empathetic way with the right information to answer those questions, so it relieves a lot of the stress and anxiety for the children.”
There is still a lot of work to be done before the satellite location is up, running, and assisting members of the Kingston community. Volunteers will need to be recruited and trained, and arrangements are being made to allow mothers diagnosed with cancer to receive a referral to the agency by a healthcare or other support worker.
People that are interested in volunteering with the network can express their interest through the Nanny Angel Network website. Over time, staff personnel will be available to process the applications and assist in the recruitment of volunteers.
“Right now the website is the best way to get in touch in terms of volunteering,” said Werry, noting that the Nanny Angel Network is a great volunteer opportunity for students or professionals in Kingston studying or working in education, early childhood education, or pediatric medicine. All volunteers will receive specialized training for dealing with children in crisis situations.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for students looking to branch out and kind of get that edge up,” Werry said.
After the formal cheque presentation on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, Werry and Guth attended the site of their soon-to-be new offices at Sanctuary Coworking on Queen Street, and received a tour of the facilities. The coworking establishment provides amenities for organization staff and clients within the building, including a small café.
And for Guth, whose own struggles with cancer as a mother and experiences with other mothers battling the disease all led up to this point, the excitement and gratitude was palpable.
“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of Mr. Smith. This is a gift from heaven for us and really allows us to bring the good work that our volunteers do and to engage the community in helping other moms in this community,” Guth said. “We just couldn’t do it without him.”