When parents Steve and Jen Sauer brought their adopted daughter Fallon home, their whole lives changed. In some ways, the changes were normal. The same joy and exhaustion that all parents adding a second child to their family feel. But in other ways, their story was different.
When the Sauer family first met their daughter Fallon, they were told she had a heart condition. Her health problems turned out to be a little more complex.
“On paper, her special need was listed as a heart murmur. I’m a teacher and I think right away we figured out there were some other things going on,” explained Jen, mom to Colin and Fallon. The family had traveled to China to adopt Fallon and upon returning to the US, they knew that they were going to be facing bigger challenges ahead on Fallon’s health journey.
Raising a child with complex health conditions is a unique experience. Every family is different and how they handle the challenges associated with having a child with a life-threatening condition or a condition that could become life-threatening is an experience that not everyone else can relate to. But connecting families who are all living this shared experience can be a game changer.
That’s where A Kid Again comes in. Founded in 1995, A Kid Again is specifically designed to involve the entire family (not just the child who is ill) to improve the well-being of everyone affected by the situation. By building a community, the families who participate in A Kid Again don’t just receive help and support, they also offer it to their fellow participants.
“We went through like five years of trying to figure out what was going on and feeling like we were so alone. Now we feel like we have a community,” said Jen. “It’s been a hard journey but we feel like we can walk into a place and look at any single parent and feel like we have some sort of kinship with them.”
The organization provides year-round adventures that allow the kids who are dealing with these complex health situations and life-threatening conditions to feel like, well, a kid again. The adventures are cost and carefree, not just for the child facing the condition, but for the entire immediate family.
“A Kid Again gives an opportunity for a lot of things,” said Steve, Fallon and Colin’s dad. “It kind of forces, in a good way, the family to get together and do something together. They send us to events that we would literally not be able to pay for. They provide the food, the entertainment,” he explained. “All we have to do is show up as a family and have fun together all day.”
The events give families a chance to step away from the stresses of raising a child with a life-threatening condition and to have the opportunity to experience a truly worry-free day as a family.
As for who can benefit from the services provided by A Kid Again, the answer isn’t complicated.
“What I say to families is, if you’re taking your child to doctors appts weekly, if they’re at Nationwide Children’s Hospital more times than you can remember, then A Kid Again is for you,” explained A Kid Again Central Ohio’s outreach specialist Jared Buerger. “We serve children that have over 300 conditions. We are fully condition-inclusive and if you’re battling a life-threatening condition then A Kid Again is for you, and it’s just that simple.”
For families like Steve and Jen, the sense of relief and joy is priceless. Like many families who are considering joining the program, they initially thought that they shouldn’t join and should leave the opportunity for less-fortunate families. But they learned quickly that they deserved the opportunity to participate in the program.
“The thing that families need to realize is that there’s always another family that’s got it worse off than you,” said Steve. “But what you have to recognize is that there’s a reason why you’re invited to this. If you’re invited to be a part of it, accept it because someone cares enough about you to let you have this experience.”
A Kid Again is free for families to join and the application process is really simple. If your family or anyone you know would benefit from the program, you can get more info at joinakidagain.org.