Bright school stationery on old wooden table

The Chandler-based Children’s Cancer Network is helping parents deal with back-to-school costs.

For most children, back-to-school season means new shoes, new clothes, a new backpack and excitement about the year ahead. 

But for families of kids fighting cancer, the expenses of going back to school may put a damper on the season. 

Like the physical and emotional effects of pediatric cancer, the financial impact can be devastating, too. 

In many cases, household income drops, as one parent must quit work in order to care for the child. Meanwhile, expenses increase dramatically: 

According to a study from the American Childhood Cancer Organization, 60 percent of U.S. families reported spending as much as $10,000 annually on transportation, meals away from home, childcare and other non-medical costs during their child’s treatment.

“For these families, back-to-school season is a real financial burden,” said Patti Luttrell, executive director for Children’s Cancer Network, a Chandler-based nonprofit organization that serves Arizona families facing pediatric cancer.

 “Our goal is to ease that burden and give kids everything they need to start the year off right.”

 CCN’s Back to School program annually equips more than 300 childhood cancer fighters and their siblings with backpacks stuffed with school supplies.

 Individuals and partner organizations throughout Arizona –  including Mayo Clinic, Macy’s and Kameron’s Krusaders – join CCN in the effort by donating funds and supplies. 

Later this summer, families will visit CCN’s Resource Center in Chandler to “shop” for a backpack. For kids who are hospitalized for cancer treatment, CCN will deliver the backpacks and supplies.

The organization goes a step further for families facing true financial crises. 

Beyond a backpack and supplies, CCN will sponsor new clothes and new shoes for more than 100 kids during a special shopping day in July at Macy’s locations in Chandler, Arrowhead and Tucson. 

“Macy’s has arranged for our families to shop in the morning before the stores open to make sure we can abide by social distancing guidelines,” said Luttrell. “This is especially important for cancer survivors who are medically fragile and high risk.”

The organization also provides these families with basic needs items like cleaning supplies, shampoo, soap and paper goods.

Community members can help Arizona families fighting cancer in several ways. 

They can donate items from CCN’s Amazon Wish List; drop off new backpacks and school supplies at CCN from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday; arrange for a Back to School Collection Box at their workplace by contacting stephanie.christensen@childrenscancernetwork.org; or make a financial donation at childrenscancernetwork.org. 

The Back to School supply drive runs through June 30.

CCN serves hundreds of Arizona families each year. Beyond its annual Back to School program, the organization provides gas and grocery gift cards, hospital admission kits to help new families navigate the road ahead and adopt-a-family programs for the holidays. The organization also hosts activities to boost self-confidence in young cancer fighters, programs to help siblings cope with cancer, and provides a multitude of other services and resources.

“Our goal is to pick up where the hospital and insurance leave off to ensure families are supported throughout their cancer journey,” said Luttrell. “No one should have to fight alone.”

For more information, to make a donation, or to inquire about volunteer opportunities, visit childrenscancernetwork.org.