Hospice and Palliative Care of Iredell County serves children who experience terminal or other major health conditions or lose a loved one. Rainbow Kidz, a pediatric program, offers hospice, palliative and supportive care, grief support groups and bereavement services.
Except for hospice and palliative care, the nonprofit furnishes its other services without fees. No child is turned away because of inability to pay.
Leigh Ann Darty, director of human services, said children may experience relationship issues, anger management problems and slipping grades when a loved one dies. Through Rainbow Kidz, Darty has organized grief support groups that meet weekly for 45 minutes to help students cope with loss.
In 2010, 100 children were served. Groups meet in seven Iredell-Statesville schools. "We are trying to grow in the southern part of the county," said Darty.
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She organized a group at South Iredell High five years ago and continues to meet there. Students at Lake Norman High and Lakeshore Middle schools are meeting for the first time this semester.
School counselors have given positive feedback about the effectiveness of the grief programs. In written evaluations, teens have said their appetites and grades have improved.
In another capacity, Darty is a member of a pediatric team that supports children and their parents. Rainbow Kidz offers emotional and spiritual support while a child undergoes treatment for any major illness. Outreach coordinator Mindy Rice said the organization can help families connect with resources.
Timmy Belcher was diagnosed with cancer at age 10. Now 16, he has had a relapse and is undergoing chemotherapy. He and his family use the team's comfort care service.
Before Timmy began using Rainbow Kidz, his mother, Jodi Belcher, and Karen Cornett, both emergency room nurses, were searching for a way to "give back to the community." Cornett is a thyroid cancer survivor.
They are co-chairing the "Riding for Rainbows" charity bicycle ride March 26 at Lakewood Park in Statesville. The festival will be a family event beginning at 10 a.m.
Bicyclists have their choice of a 30-mile or 65-mile course designed by Wes Davidson of 1st Flight Bicycles. A very easy 5-mile ride on flat terrain will be available for kids and families.
Bands will provide music and activities for children will include a bicycle rodeo and bouncers. Park admission will be waived, but visitors can make donations to Rainbow Kidz at the Hospice booth.
While the charity ride was in the planning stages, the Belchers learned Timmy's cancer was no longer in remission. This event is "in honor of my son, an incredible person who has so much strength and courage," Jodi said.
When a family receives the first diagnosis, she said, "The whole world turns upside down. Everything spins out of control."
She and Cornett want to raise money for Rainbow Kidz and raise awareness. They want to help the organization grow so it can help families financially, if the need arise.
Riders can register between 7 and 7:30 a.m. the day of the race. Advance registration online is encouraged www.ridingforrainbows.com. The fee for any of the three races is $20 now, but it will increase to $25 on race day.
To request the services of Rainbow Kidz, call Darty or Rice at 704-873-4719. Hospice offices are at 150 Fairview Road, Mooresville, and 2347 Simonton Road, Statesville.