Foundation offers hope for families with sick children
by CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Banner Staff Writer
Jul 03, 2014 | 1568 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HC Jordan Light Foundation
 Lauren Bryant
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There are many unexpected circumstances a family might face as its children grow.

However, one circumstance in particular can affect families in more ways than one — a child facing a medical emergency.

A locally-based national nonprofit organization has been working to assist families with sick children as they help their children focus on getting well.

“You just don’t prepare for a medical crisis,” said Lauren Bryant, executive director of The Jordan Light Foundation.

Though it is now based in Cleveland, The Jordan Light Foundation began in Martin, Ky., in 2010.

The organization’s namesake is Jordan, the late son of Sam and Tina Hughes. When Jordan was 19 months old, he was diagnosed with a condition called ependymoma that caused a tumor to form in his brain. The next years of his life were spent in and out of hospitals. Between 2004 and 2010, he had four brain tumor surgeries.

Along the way, the Hugheses met several families who were trying to see their own children through serious health conditions.

They found children having serious health conditions had affected those families in a variety of ways.

Parents were having to quit jobs to be near their children. Household bills went unpaid so more money could go toward medical bills. Families were having to stay in hotels to be near the hospitals where their children stayed.

“That’s where they really got the heart for these families,” Bryant said.

The couple had the idea to start a nonprofit to help families whose children were dealing with serious medical issues.

When Jordan died June 21, 2010, at the age of 7, his parents determined his legacy should outlive him.

At his funeral, they asked for donations to start the foundation, in lieu of flowers.

Since then, the Jordan Light Foundation has helped hundreds of families nationwide as they navigate their children’s health challenges.

In 2013, Lauren Bryant, a Lee University alumna, became the foundation’s executive director, and its main office was moved to Cleveland.

The Jordan Light Foundation now helps families throughout the U.S. by raising awareness of their plights and offering support and funding to help them.

Funding for families comes in the form of gas station gift cards, payments for hotel stays and other types of assistance.

Another way the organization helps is simply by being there for the families.

Bryant said she and others with the foundation try to visit the families when they can to show personal support as well.

She recalled one time visiting a single mother whose 4-year-old child was in the hospital with cancer.

With tears gathering in her eyes, the mother asked her why on earth Bryant was visiting someone she did not know in the hospital. After all, this woman said, she had friends who knew what she was going through, but chose not to visit.

Bryant said she was able to share her Christian faith with the woman. She told her she wanted to let her know she wanted to help her and “share the love of Jesus with her.” 

While the organization does spend a lot of its time helping families with their financial concerns, it is not the only goal.

“Our goal is for this to be a ministry,” Bryant said.

The foundation has established partnerships with a variety of other organizations to help the families it serves, and some of them have been churches.

To receive help from the foundation, a family must have a child or teenager under the age of 18 who has been dealing with a serious medical condition.

The foundation receives referrals from social workers in hospitals, but families can apply directly to the organization.

Families of children dealing with everything from complications related to premature birth to being hit by a drunk driver have been helped.

“A medical crisis can look like anything,” Bryant said.

The foundation funds its efforts through donations and grants.

Bryant estimates it has helped around 300 families since it was founded in 2010, including 20 within just the last three months.

While it is a national organization, she said it has helped “several” families in Cleveland.

When she first took the helm as executive director, she said she was surprised to learn four of the families it was serving lived within five minutes of the office at 1510 Stuart Road.

Bryant moved to Cleveland in 2007 to attend Lee University. She said she had no idea so many local children were having to deal with such serious health issues.

“I was shocked, personally,” she said. “That hits home to me.” 

One of the Cleveland families helped by the foundation was a homeless family with five children.

After one of the boys was diagnosed with cancer, various circumstances caused them to lose their home.

The foundation was able to put the family up in a hotel for a time and help connect them to other local organizations to help them find a place to live, Bryant said.

Fortunately, the boy’s cancer is now in remission, and his family now has an apartment instead of a hotel room.

Bryant said she has met other families on the verge of homelessness because their children’s medical bills were eating away at their finances.

She added many people in Cleveland might not know there are local families who have been dealing with difficult life situations like the one faced by that family.

“It actually happens,” Bryant said. “It’s amazing how you can go your whole life and not realize people are struggling like that. There really is a need here.” 

That is why, in addition to financial support, the organization lists “awareness” as one of its goals.

Bryant said people should be aware of the need to help struggling families in their communities, and those families need to know they can find help when things seem hopeless.

“There is hope,” Bryant said.

For more information about the foundation, visit www.thejordanlightfoundation.org or call 423-458-8553.