On a Tuesday night, while the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer was bustling full of children playing and running around, one child named Enrique stood out amongst the chaos. Fourteen-year-old Enrique was playing with his cousin Ayla and sister Alieta, who also come to the Foundation after school multiple times a week. His aunt English brings them to Austin Hatcher Foundation every week.
Although Enrique is all smiles today, English remembers a time when things weren’t filled with fun. When Enrique was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), it affected their entire family. “We were all full of fear and anxiety, and it was so difficult because we didn’t even know what questions to ask or who to go to for help,” she says. “We didn’t have a support system for Enrique’s needs in the beginning, and we thought we had to go out and find it on our own. It was amazing that the foundation could be there for us.”
One of Enrique’s biggest struggles after treatment was returning back to school. “The Austin Hatcher Foundation has been amazing, between the testing and the outreach to the school. We are here all the time, because Enrique, Ayla, and Alieta all benefit from the tutoring and enrichment, and they’re at almost every camp or special event for kids as well,” says English. “The foundation has helped us out in school big time, with all of the neuro-psych testing and providing help to sit in the meetings to get some progress, because the school wasn’t listening to us about Enrique’s needs.”
With the help of Dr. April Nesin, the Foundation’s clinical psychologist, and many others, Enrique, and his family members are receiving important support and specialized services allowing them to excel personally, socially, at school, at home, and more.
“The teachers and the school weren’t able to understand Enrique’s needs after cancer treatment, but now that they’ve met with April and the Austin Hatcher Foundation, it helps motivate him more,” English says. “April comes to the school meetings with me as my advocate. She didn’t have to, but she did. The kids get tutoring and testing done here, and they help the family members too which is nice.”
The Austin Hatcher Foundation also provides a fun-filled space for the kids to let loose and relax. One of these programs is a free summer enrichment camp that is an extension of their services for the families while developing long-lasting relationships with children. The kids get to enjoy yoga, acting out skits, filming short movies, visiting with therapy dogs, completing cooking lessons, and much more.
“The foundation has given the opportunity to me and my family to go on different adventures. They take us to places and experiences that we don’t usually get to see and do,” says Enrique. “My favorite thing I have done is the driving simulator. It teaches us how to drive on roads that other kids wouldn’t be able to.”
“I love the Austin Hatcher Foundation,” he adds with a smile.