Pictured: Cheryl Fergerson, LMSW
For some, working to bridge the gaps in life-threatening disease treatment is a passion that is fulfilled by occasional volunteering, but for others, like Licensed Master Social Worker, or LMSW, Cheryl Fergerson, it’s their life’s work. Fergerson serves as a medical social worker with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, which provides support for patients and families enrolled in hospice and/or palliative care services at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Through a program titled Quality of Life for All Kids, or QoLA for short, Fergerson and her team work to provide families with resources and opportunities for community engagement throughout the course of their ill loved one’s treatment.
Similarly, Christopher Hope, Executive Director and Founder of the Chris Hope Foundation, dedicates himself to serving the same community. As fate would have it, in February of 2019, the two organizations joined forces. After meeting with QoLA, the Chris Hope Foundation, or CHF, saw a new window of opportunity where the non-profit could decrease the disparities experienced by families facing the realities of having an extremely or terminally ill child. The connection was instant for both the CHF team and QoLA miracle workers, Fergerson explains, “My initial reaction to the Chris Hope Foundation team was one of relief. I found relief in knowing that there is an existing foundation with a mission to help the type of children and families that our unique program serves. The team evidenced commitment and passion about the work they are doing to serve our community.”
Hope and his board of volunteers immediately began working to fulfill the needs of QoLA’s patients and their families. From the outside looking in, a pediatric cancer diagnosis is devastating emotionally but unless you’ve walked through the darkness of the diagnosis, it is hard to understand how it can leave everyone in its path feeling defeated. As if the emotional stress was not enough, the financial stress steadily begins to creep in once the treatment plan starts rolling. When patients come in from out of town, hospitals commonly assist in ensuring that basic needs such as housing and meals are taken care of in some capacity. Surprisingly, local families, on the other hand, do not qualify for the same accommodations as it is expected that their needs are met since home is just a short drive away.
But as QoLA sees every day, no matter what city a family with an ill child calls home, Memphis or far beyond, the financial burden can weigh equally as heavy for families on both sides of the spectrum. Fergerson noted, “A hospital admission takes a financial toll on families that is often not considered. Many caregivers miss days from work without pay and even a few days can put them behind on bills and basic needs being resolved.” The financial toll comes in many forms. From fueling the car to providing meals, it all begins to add up very quickly. Fergerson shared that it is not uncommon for families to separate in an attempt to reduce the financial burden imposed on them by the disease. For one family, a trip home means $700 in gas and a difficult and uncomfortable car ride for the patient.
When these families need a helping hand in making ends meet, time is crucial. In some cases, illnesses can take a turn for the worse in a matter of hours and make it difficult to fulfill a request in a short amount of time. Through our partnership with QoLA, it is our mission to act swiftly when a request comes in so that, when possible, no patient or family requests go unfulfilled. “The resources provided to our children and families thus far by CHF are ones that other agencies do not offer, are not available for patients, or families do not qualify for. The fact that CHF can fill some of these service gaps so promptly has been amazing,” Fergerson expressed.
While the joining of our non-profit and the QoLA program is still in its early days, we have already been able to meet the needs of many patients and families together. Serving these brave fighters looks different from case to case. Whether it is providing clothing for a family’s child who is receiving treatment long away from their home in Israel or bringing a patient’s final wish to life, the smallest of things can mean the world to those in need. And that is exactly why we are committed to this cause and excited for the future of our relationship with the QoLA team!
L-R: Cheryl Fergerson, LMSW and Chris Hope Foundation Executive Director and Founder, Christopher Hope.
Cheryl Fergerson and Christopher Hope work to discuss upcoming plans for serving QoLA's patients and families.