Guilford’s ‘kidsHUGS’ helps children to cope when a parent is sick

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nola-lai-kids-hugsGUILFORD - Families with children coping when a parent is sick can now express themselves through an arts program in Guilford.

"In 2001, my husband was diagnosed with cancer," said Amy Fenollosa, noting that, at the time, her sons were 5 and 7 years old.

"We looked for resources in the community to help them understand what they were going through and what our family was experiencing and we weren’t able to find anything locally."

This inspired the Guilford mother to start kidsHUGS, an organization to support children - ages 6 to 16 - who have a parent that is sick or living with a disability.lai-cron-kids-hugs

"Kind of organically, conversations happen with family members and with children as they’re all living through similar experiences," said Fenollosa.

"One time, I remember we made scream boxes out of leftover shoe boxes," recalls Nola Lai, whose mom, Julie Cron, found out she had breast cancer two years ago.  "As a parent the thing you’re most concerned about is how is this affecting the people around me particularly my children and spouse," says Cron.

kh-expressive-artsDuring sessions at the Women and Family Life Center, the non-profit helped the family slow down, talk and laugh while making projects like collages.  HUGS stands for hope, understanding, growth and support.

"I think it helped us stay close during the difficult times," says Cron.  "It was easier to talk about what I was feeling, rather than saying it right off the bat," said Lai.

Cron is now cancer-free.

"My family wouldn’t have made it through this without our community," she says.

Fenollosa also leaned on her friends when she lost her husband, Nathaniel.  Honest communication - like the approach at kidsHUGS - is helping her sons heal.

"For the most part, they’re really comfortable talking and I think that helped them grow into the strong boys they are now," said Fenollosa.

kidsHUGS meets one Monday a month during the school year.  The next meeting is October 24.  Sessions are free and anyone from any community is welcome.  Click here for registration information.