Strengthening Our Communities: Cancer Support Community CNJ Provides Virtual Education and Support to Teachers and Professionals

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Cancer Support Community Central NJ (CSCCNJ) has remained a critical resource during this difficult time in partnership with Gilda’s Club South Jersey, Gilda’s Club Philadelphia, and Cancer Support Community Greater Lehigh Valley by modifying the in-person Strengthening Our Schools conference to be offered virtually and at no charge. Now more than ever, these “kid-centered” professionals are on the front lines for students as they manage through a pandemic. The three-day series included breakout sessions on topics ranging from mindfulness and games to cancer, loss, and COVID-19. The series brought together a range of professionals from social workers and nurses to teachers and child life specialists, all of whom work with school-age children.

Strengthening Our Schools Conference

The virtual aspect of Strengthening Our Schools provided an opportunity to reach even more attendees than previous years. There were 92 attendees tuning in virtually from the comfort of their homes, offices, and classrooms from across the United States and internationally.

Children and teens impacted by a cancer diagnosis are experiencing increased fear, anxiety, and isolation due, not only to the diagnosis, but to the COVID-19 pandemic as well. Cancer Support Community Central New Jersey (CSCCNJ), a nonprofit organization located in Bedminster, NJ, understands the importance of providing support for these vulnerable students, as well as the school and childcare personnel with whom they spend the majority of their day. CSCCNJ recently hosted its annual Strengthening Our Schools conference virtually to equip school professionals with the tools they need when a child is impacted by a cancer diagnosis either personally or through a loved one.

CSCCNJ has remained a critical resource during this difficult time in partnership with Gilda’s Club South Jersey, Gilda’s Club Philadelphia, and Cancer Support Community Greater Lehigh Valley by modifying the in-person conference to be offered virtually and at no charge.

Now more than ever, these “kid-centered” professionals are on the front lines for students as they manage through a pandemic. The three-day series included breakout sessions on topics ranging from mindfulness and games to cancer, loss, and COVID-19. The series brought together a range of professionals from social workers and nurses to teachers and child life specialists, all of whom work with school-age children.

“There is an increased level of concern regarding mental health and quality of life, and this further exposed the myriad health disparities for our participants and their loved ones. There were families with young children in the home whose academics came to a halt and are now exposed to their parents’ cancer diagnosis and debilitating side effects 24/7,” says Katherine Schaible, LSW, Program Director at CSCCNJ.

The virtual aspect of the conference provided an opportunity to reach even more attendees than previous years. There were 92 attendees tuning in virtually from the comfort of their homes, offices, and classrooms from across the United States and internationally.

Strengthening Our Schools is the centerpiece of CSCCNJ’s efforts to address the significant unmet needs for adolescents and teens facing a cancer diagnosis or the diagnosis/death of a family member. Since 2013, this conference has provided tools and resources to professionals in these communities and made them aware of the services available to their schools.

Tara Geraghty, BA, REBT, presented a keynote speech on "Finding the Fun: Parenting in the Face of Cancer." The presentation discussed what a parent and child experience in a pediatric cancer diagnosis. Tara made a point to answer any questions from these professionals as she added in how she felt and what worked best for her situation. By the end of the virtual conference, these professionals were equipped with tools and resources to bring back to their communities to better serve the children and families impacted by a cancer diagnosis.

“Before and during the pandemic, it has always been our mission to provide age and developmentally appropriate emotional and social support programs to children, teens, and families,” says Schaible.

This conference was made possible thanks to the generosity of Clinton Sunrise Rotary, Daiichi Sankyo, Sanofi US, and The Tyler Foundation.

For more information about School Based Support, contact Jesse Guzik, CCLS, Child/Youth Program Coordinator, at 908-658-5400 x5.

About Cancer Support Community Central New Jersey:
Cancer Support Community Central New Jersey (CSCCNJ) is a registered 501(c)(3). As experts in oncology mental health, the organization provides support, education, and hope to all people with cancer and their loved ones. Backed by evidence that the best cancer care includes social and emotional support, CSCCNJ creates a caring community to help individuals live with, through and beyond cancer. At no charge to people with cancer, family members, and caregivers, the organization delivers essential programs and services including individual and group support; educational, nutrition, and healthy-cooking workshops; classes to enhance health and wellness; and activities that build social connections. CSCCNJ has temporarily moved its program of support to a virtual platform since the start of stay-at-home orders, and will continue to provide both virtual and in-person support in the future. For more information, visit their website at cancersupportcnj.org or call (908) 658-5400.

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