PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When someone gets a cancer diagnosis, it can often throw their life into chaos, especially when it involves a child.
One local non-profit organization aims to help those families through that tough time — when the hospital becomes their second home.
Five-year-old Otto Stuckman and his mom, Emily Baker-Stuckman, have spent a lot of time roaming the halls of Doernbecher Children’s Hospital since he started suffering from leg pain.
“They did a CT of his head and discovered he had a brain tumor and it needed to be operated on immediately,” Emily said. “He had brain surgery the day after they did that CT scan.”
Emily had to give up working to care for Otto full-time as he fights stage 4 neuroblastoma. Sometimes they have little notice for when he needs to go to the hospital.
“If Otto gets a fever when his immune system is low, we usually have to come into hospital right away,” Emily said. “I usually have bag packed for hospital but I don’t keep a food bag packed.”
That’s where Candlelighters comes in. The group has a stocked food pantry and movie library in the hospital and even offers financial assistance.
“Many families don’t even realize that they’re in crisis because they’re so focused on caring for their child,” said Jackie Groah with Candlelighters. “They forget that oh my god, they didn’t pay their light bill or mortgage is coming up.”
Emily was approved for their emergency fund, so Candlelighters paid part of her mortgage for October.
“Without me working, we are starting to struggle a little bit,” Emily said.
Otto is a big fan of the Candlelighter’s twice a month dinners at the hospital.
“I like their pizza,” he said.
Candlelighters is on track to provide $93,000 in financial assistance for families this year. The organization relies on donations to help families like Otto’s.
While they support his family, the Candlelighters help keep the spirits up for Otto, who is just in the beginning stages of the fight for his life.