TWINSBURG – A regional nonprofit was able to offer a bit of summer fun at its Twinsburg office with a drive-thru party for its families, despite social distancing rules.
The June 19 event included the start of A Kid Again’s “Adventures in a Box” program, which provides families with a child age birth to 20 facing a life-threatening condition with activity kits to take home and enjoy together.
Families from across Northern Ohio were able to wave to superheroes and Disney princesses, courtesy of Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio, based in Avon. A bubble-making machine was on site, and the air was frequently filled with small bubbles and the occasional giant bubble large enough to cover an adult. Volunteers held up signs welcoming those attending.
Christine Bucknell, the executive director of A Kid Again, Northern Ohio Chapter, said that about 150 families came to the event, the first the agency had sponsored since its February outing to a Cavs game, “right before everything happened” with the COVID-19 pandemic. With its Northern Ohio offices at 9347 Ravenna Road, A Kid Again serves 360 families throughout the area.
“Our families are so familiar with isolation, so this is not new to them,” Bucknell said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This magnifies it,” she added.
Typically, A Kid Again hosts eight activities a year, Bucknell said. The free events have included trips to Cedar Point, sports games, a cruise on the Goodtime III and a holiday party. The holiday party usually has around 700 attending.
Bucknell said the events are spread throughout the year to give families something to look forward to between the multiple doctor and hospital visits. And that is one thing the organization emphasizes: The activities scheduled are planned with the entire family in mind.
“That’s what attracted me to this organization,” Bucknell said.
One family, who joined in December following a friend’s referral, is the Taggart family of the village of Jewett in Harrison County.
Annie Taggart, 6, has osteogenesis imperfecta, an inherited condition characterized by fragile bones, also known as “brittle bone” disease.
The family was able to participate in the 2019 Christmas party and attend a Cleveland Indians game, and when the pandemic hit, mom Sara said that A Kid Again sent the family gift cards and sanitizer.
“That was helpful,” Sara said, noting the staple item disappeared from store shelves in the spring.
Annie said she liked seeing Batman and likes the summer activities bag, which included bubbles, a T-shirt, tie-dying materials and, most importantly to Annie, a package of water balloons.
Sara said that Annie and her siblings, who include Troy, 11, Ty, 9, and April, 2, love playing with water balloons.
“When get the water balloons, we have to make buckets for everyone,” Sara said. Annie clutched her package of water balloons protectively and glared at her two older brothers.
Sara described Annie as “fearless.”
“I try to let her go and have freedom,” Sara said. She added her husband Adam is more protective.
The fact that A Kid Again includes siblings is wonderful for the Taggart family, Sara said.
“They get so much attention at the hospital,” Sara said. “There are so many organizations that do things for the special kids, but they don’t do anything with the siblings. They set everything up for you, you just come, have an awesome time and make so many memories.”
Bucknell said the next activity is tentatively planned for July, with a drive-in movie at Midway Drive-In in Ravenna. In addition, the organization is currently planning a Christmas in July-style fundraiser and event. Funding for the organization has decreased due to the pandemic, she said; in addition, it’s uncertain whether A Kid Again will be able to have its annual Christmas gathering due to COVID-19.
“They need happiness more than ever,” Bucknell said.
Bucknell said she was happy with how the day’s event turned out, and was thrilled to see the organization’s families again, even if they had to be socially distanced due to the pandemic.
“I do miss the hugs,” Bucknell said.
A Kid Again, which started more than 20 years ago, has three chapters in Ohio, one in Indianapolis, and one in Philadelphia. For details, visit https://akidagain.org/ online, or call the Northern Ohio office at 330-405-5437.
April Helms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.