“We do not treat pediatric cancer, but we treat the effects cancer has on a family,” said Patricia Kassebaum, director, at Monday’s session of the Bradley County Interagency Council.
According to Kassebaum, one in every 320 children will be diagnosed with cancer before they reach the age of 21. She said pediatric cancer takes more lives of children every year than cystic fibrosis, asthma, and pediatric AIDs combined. Progress has been made, and cancer survival is approaching 80 percent for a five-year survival rate.
Hatch’s House focuses on providing support for the whole family affected by cancer. The makeup of a cancer-stricken family is often: sick child, parents split between work and their sick child, and additional children who are medically well, but lonely and upset. Kassenbaum refers to these factors as ingredients for a “perfect storm.”
Programs are in place at Hatch’s to identify problems and offer aid. A list of Hatch’s services include: art therapy, cogrem (cognitive remediation), comprehensive psychological and educational evaluations, diversionary therapies, financial counseling, grief/bereavement service, music therapy, parent child interaction therapy, equine assisted psychotherapy, and purposeful play, to name a few.
“All of our services we provide, we provide at no cost,” Kassenbaum said.
All services provided through the Austin Hatcher Foundation are funded through donations. This eliminates any red tape which would dictate who, when, and how families are helped at Hatch’s.
Applicants for the program must have had an immediate family member stricken with pediatric cancer. The pediatric cancer patient does not have to currently be sick or be under the age of 21 for his/her family to visit the House of Hope.
“You [sick child] and all of your family are eligible for our services. We can treat families from Chattanooga to New York City. It does not matter where the family is located,” Kassenbaum said.
The foundation began in 2006. The programs, staff, and vision of Hatch’s House have grown. They are working toward a nationwide goal.
“Our goal is in 10 years, every place which treats children’s cancer will have a Hatch’s House next door,” Kassenbaum said. “We walk along with each family.”
An explanation of services offered by Hatch’s can be found at www.hatchshouse.org. These services are designed to impact a family on various levels. According to Kassenbaum, if a needed program does not already exist, then personnel at Hatch’s will create one.
She said working with cancer patients and their families is rewarding. Some people do not understand how the Hatch’s staff can maintain constant contact with individuals stricken with cancer.
Kassenbaum has a simple reply.
“There is nothing sad about hope,” Kassenbaum said. “We want these families to come out better than they came in.”