Join arm-in-arm the community supporting the families effected by childhood cancer.
On March 3, 2017, there was a line of traffic as I drove up to the Las Vegas Design Center at World Market. Cars were everywhere, in front and behind me. When it was finally my turn, the valet greeted me warmly, as I stepped outside of my car and handed him my keys. While I walked up to Building B, I admired many of the luxury vehicles parked along the side. Straight ahead, amid the dimly lit quad, was the oversized and brightly lit marquee letters that read one word: HOPE.
I smiled as I watched a little girl fit between the letters and pose for her mother to take a picture of “hope” surrounding her. Upon entering the building, the greeters happily checked me in. Afterwards, I was invited to walk the long red carpet leading to the elevators. A woman with a tray of champagne-filled flutes awaited my exit from the elevator onto the 16th floor. Just behind her were cheerful people lined up to take pictures with the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada’s, “Evening of Hope” backdrop on the smaller red carpet.
Inside 300-400 dressed-to-impress people of all ages paraded throughout the floor. The feeling of happiness and charity was overwhelmingly present. The view of the Las Vegas Valley was spectacular. The number of restaurants and food vendors displaying small plates of varied cuisines was astounding. The event was simply remarkable.
Melissa Cipriano, Executive Director of Candlelighters, explains, “an Evening of Hope is a way of providing awareness and celebrating people who support our organization so that we can support our mission to our families, as well as celebrating our survivors.”
When I was asked to write this article, I knew very little about the organization and didn’t know what to expect from attending this of their three annual events. However, the hopeful atmosphere impressed me to make a financial donation; listen to chefs and restaurant owners, as I ate the food they prepared, explain their reason for choosing to volunteer their time for this event; and was thoroughly entertained by the hosting of the live auction.
“Our organization is the first and oldest childhood cancer organization in the state of Nevada. We have been priding ourselves on providing emotional support, quality of life programs, and financial assistance to all families who are affected by childhood cancer,” Cipriano noted.
After attending the Evening of Hope 2017, I was equally impressed to learn how many unsung heroes there are supporting the organization that makes up an expansive community of supporters. Cipriano states, “There are so many families, people, medical professionals, corporations, and survivors that are supporting the children and their families.” Candlelighters serves approximately 125 families a month, and as many as 600 children throughout the year. To provide its programs and services, it takes countless hours from many volunteers, including the organization’s Board members. If paid, their help would have an estimated value worth millions of dollars in hourly wages.
“Volunteers are the baseline for any nonprofit. Candlelighters is so grateful for [our] team of volunteers that embrace our mission and help to support the families,” identifies Cipriano. Candlelighters is fully funded by the charitable contributions made by the community, and corporation and private foundation grants. Notably, she highlights, “all [of the] money raised stays here to support the programs we provide. Every single dollar supports our local families or those being treated locally in Las Vegas.”
Chartered in 1978, two families founded Candlelighters after both experienced having a child being treated for cancer. They created an organization where families could find strength, knowledge, and comfort by banding together during their most difficult times. According to Cipriano, “We will continue to be true to its mission in providing those three vital areas of support to families throughout their cancer journey.”
Almost 40 years later, Candlelighters provides support and services for all cancer-diagnosed children or those who have survived living or being treated in Nevada, from birth to the age of 21. There are no other membership requirements and the services are 100 percent free to these families.
Always looking for additional ways to support the families, Candlelighters just launched a scholarship program. This April, the organization will award $30,000 of scholarships to 10 in-college or college bound recipients. It also includes any child, that would like assistance with vocational school training, like trade or cosmetology schools. Cipriano gladly shares,
“We are super excited about this program because every parent dreams of their kid going off to college or trade school or making a career. When your child goes through cancer, there’s no guarantee about tomorrow. The beauty of watching them work so hard and persevere to go off to college is phenomenal. It’s one of my favorite programs.”
Until this community’s hope for a cure for cancer is fulfilled, Candlelighters will work alongside medical professionals and be here to provide the emotional and financial assistance needed by families in Nevada. Cipriano mentions, “At the quality of life programs, the support and love that [the families] have for one another is pretty powerful and wonderful.” During the event, I was blessed with the opportunity to witness this very fact.
It is my hope that you will take a moment to learn more about the Candlelighters and their work by at least visiting their site at www.candlelightersnv.org and be compelled to call (702) 737-1919 and join the community of supporters in the fight against childhood cancer. Like Cipriano did at the end of our interview, I too will close with this poignant statement:
“There are many of us and we are arm-in-arm providing these families with love and care. From the $10 monthly donor or the one-time contribution to the hundreds and thousands of dollars in grants and corporation support, everyone plays an important role in the organization because without them we could not do what we do for these special families. “