by Kenzie Fronek, Development Intern
Pinky Swear Foundation
The Pinky Swear Foundation: A dad’s promise to his son to continue to help kids with cancer
September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness month. All of us at LKNConnect.com are proud to select The Pinky Swear Foundation as September’s Outstanding Non-Profit for their tremendous work with families and children in our area and beyond.
This is The Pinky Swear Foundation’s first article in the four-part series as our Outstanding Non-Profit for the month of September. We found out who they are, how you can help, met some of their All-Star children, and learned how we can volunteer. We hope you continue to follow their mission and their events in the future. —EH Stafford, Managing Editor
A Pinky Swear to Do More
“Dad, promise me that you will keep helping kids with cancer. Pinky swear promise me.”
Nine-year-old Mitch Chepokas was dying of bone cancer when he and his dad made this seemingly simple promise. Mitch had overheard a family on his hospital floor talking about how they would not have enough money for Christmas presents that year. With his dad’s help, Mitch decided to take all the money out of his bank account and gave it anonymously to families on his hospital floor. When he asked if they could do it again the next year, his dad told him he probably would not be alive for the next Christmas. Mitch made his dad pinky swear promise him that he would continue to help families who have children with cancer.
The Pinky Swear Foundation is created
After that original pinky swear promise in 2002, the Chepokas family created the Pinky Swear Foundation to honor Mitch and his desire to help other families who have kids with cancer. The Pinky Swear Foundation has provided millions of dollars in financial assistance and has helped thousands of families. With three core markets – Minnesota, Iowa, and North Carolina – Pinky Swear provides support to families all over the country. In 2018 alone, Pinky Swear provided over $53,000 to eligible North Carolina families in financial grants. Pinky Swear offers emotional and financial support through four unique programs: Orange Envelopes, All Star Funds, All Star Weekends, and the Pinky Swear Pantry.
The Orange Envelope Program
The Orange Envelope program is sent as a “virtual hug” to families who have a child recently diagnosed with cancer. The Orange Envelope includes many items of encouragement, including a letter from Mitch’s parents and a small financial gift, inspired by Mitch withdrawing money from his own account to aid families on his hospital floor. This program was launched in 2017 to provide reassurance and hope in the midst of an incredibly difficult time for families.
The term “All-Star” refers to each child battling cancer that Pinky Swear supports. The All-Star Fund is the primary way that Pinky Swear Foundation helps to alleviate the financial strain that comes with a cancer diagnosis. This grant provides financial assistance for a variety of non-medical needs – gas and grocery gift cards, car payments, utility bills, or even paying a family’s mortgage or rent for a month. Pinky Swear strives to say yes to each family who applies for financial assistance.
An All-Star Weekend is an opportunity for the whole family to enjoy! With the generosity of a few Pinky Swear’s partners, this weekend getaway is a time for families to take a break from the hospital and spend some quality time together. Weekends include a personalized and decorated room for the All-Star, siblings, and parents as well as tickets to various activities around the area.
Pinky Swear Pantry
Pinky Swear Pantries are located in select children’s hospitals around the country. There are these fully stocked pantries in the Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, and Levine Children Hospital in Charlotte. This pantry on oncology floors offer healthy grab-and-go options for families without having to leave their child’s side.
Visit https://www.pinkyswear.org for more information on Pinky Swear Foundation’s programs. Look out for more articles here in the upcoming weeks highlighting the work and mission of Pinky Swear Foundation.
Kenzie Fronek is currently a sophomore at Creighton University’s School of Nursing in Omaha, Nebraska. She has a passion for helping kids with cancer, which led her to working with the Pinky Swear Foundation! Kenzie has also worked with other non-profits in the Twin Cities area, including Brighter Days Grief Center, The Angel Foundation, HopeKids, and Gilda’s Place.