It’s been 45 years since Candlelighters was founded by 5 families facing childhood cancer in 1977. Throughout the years, many more families have added their own stories, experiences, and insights to make our community what it is today. Each and every program – like bedside buddies, or Emergency Financial Assistance, Scholarships, Bereavement Support – exists today because someone who had experienced cancer personally saw a need. In the Foundation of Hope series, we recognize and celebrate the families that contributed and still contribute to sustaining this network of support.
One family that helped lay the foundation for Candlelighters is the Sumpter family – Sue, Paul and children Andrew, Sarah and Kate. When Andrew was diagnosed with T cell ALL on Dec 20, 1994, the family first reached out to Candlelighters for support, and ended up providing education, encouragement and hope to other families.
“My son was diagnosed with T cell ALL on Dec 20, 1994 and pretty quickly I contacted Candlelighters for help and support. Sue and Steve Freeman were the Co-Presidents then. Over the years when my son was in treatment, and then afterwards as he dealt with the long term side effects of chemo and cranial radiation, Candlelighters were such an important part of our life.
I served on the board for about 15 years, maybe more, and for some of the time (about ten years) I ran the Kids with Cancer support group in Portland where we had guest speakers each month on childhood cancer topics, helped with Family Camp as the camp nurse, and wrote articles for Candlelighters newsletter, especially about education issues and the late and long term side effects of treatment. I organized several statewide conferences on Educating the Child with Cancer for parents and teachers, and helped as an advocate in schools to ensure they were ADA compliant in providing services for children who developed learning disabilities as a result of their treatment.
Andrew was four when he was diagnosed, and he is now 32. He works as a nursing assistant at OHSU in the adult oncology clinic where he is able to share his story with others and offer hope and encouragement. Andrew is happy and healthy, has a black belt in Jiu Jitsu and we remain forever grateful for all that Candlelighters did to provide us with a family who understood exactly what we were going through. My husband and I are now both retired and spending time traveling the world ( when Covid doesn’t get in the way) and spending time with our family and especially our two grandsons. “
Are you a past Candlelighters family? Want to fill in some Candlelighters history? We’d like to hear from you and share your memories!