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Matthew Castillo, a 12-year-old patient at the UNM Children’s Hospital, reacts to receiving a Jared Box from Kayla Anderson of the District Attorney’s office on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. DA staff put together care packages full of toys and notes of support and Anderson delivered them.

Matthew Castillo, a 12-year-old patient at the UNM Children’s Hospital, reacts to receiving a Jared Box from Kayla Anderson of the District Attorney’s office on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. DA staff put together care packages full of toys and notes of support and Anderson delivered them.

Bernalillo County DA's office gives young cancer patients support

Fighting cancer is a battle afflicted children cannot fight alone, said Julia Grimes, director of Child Life at the UNM Children’s Hospital. Emotional support is an important part of rehabilitation.

Which is why staff members of the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office, as part of the nationwide Jared Box Project, took the time to put together care packages filled with toys for young cancer patients at UNM Hospital.

Grimes said it is difficult to articulate the impact made by the goodies given to the children at the hospital, most of whom are long-term patients who range in age from 18 months to 20 years old.

“It’s wonderful. That’s one thing our families so appreciate, they’re kind of isolated here and they’re away from everything that they know and need,” Grimes said. “To have somebody walk in from the community...and take the time from their daily tasks to do something wonderful for people they don’t even know is just phenomenal.”

Kayla Anderson, public information officer for the DA’s office, said she brought the completed boxes — which were filled with small toys, colored pencils and notes of positivity – to the hospital on Friday.

After working with hospital staff to organize them on a cart, she set out to deliver them, something she had not planned to do, but said she was honored to take part in it.

“I wasn’t expecting to deliver them, and to be quite honest, it might have been the best moment I’ve had in the entire time I’ve been with the DA’s office,” Anderson said.

She said the satisfaction she received from doing so was another tier entirely compared to the work she normally does, a sentiment that she said was felt by the DA’s office staff members who participated. Some even told her they’d like to make the project an annual event.

“(They) really liked being able to put the boxes together, and when they brought them to me they had a huge smile on their face,” Anderson said. “To see it on the faces of the kids here and the family members was one of the best gifts I have ever received in my entire life. It was truly a blessing.”

According to its website, the Jared Box Project is a nonprofit organization that blossomed in 2001 after the passing of a young boy named Jared in Pennsylvania the year before. Jared was known for always carrying “a backpack full of toys and games to all appointments” and for sharing those toys and his good spirits with other patients, the website states.

The project has since distributed over 200,000 Jared Boxes across the country.

The website for the Child Life departments states that it works to provide the bridge between home and the hospital through a space where young cancer patients can spend time playing or familiarizing themselves with the hospital and its staff

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Grimes said the important support from the community — such as what the DA office provided — helps patients reach another level of coping and reducing their anxiety.

“It’s interesting how connections happen, and for (DA office staff) to say now that they want to do this again is just wonderful,” she said. “I don’t even have words for how important this is, because it really takes a whole community to support people who are sick and needing care. Not only medical care, but emotional support.”

David Lynch is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at managingeditor@dailylobo.com or on Twitter 
@RealDavidLynch.

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