A simple care package. That's what one sees when they first lay eyes on the small bundles filled with toiletries, snacks and time-passing items that's delivered by Hannah's Care Packages to parents of seriously ill children in area hospitals.
However, beyond first glance lies a group of individuals who make Hannah's not just a charity but a support system, a resource, a ministry and an anchor during a family's toughest hour. One special piece of the puzzle is that many of the volunteers once received a package themselves.
No one ever wants to hear those three words -- "You have cancer." Still less, no one is ever prepared to hear that their child is the one afflicted.
Cancer became part of the Chitwood family's story after taking their 15-year-old son Jared Chitwood to the pediatrician for a simple nosebleed and a knot on his neck. A few tests later and Jared was admitted to University of Kentucky Children's Hospital that same day and diagnosed with T-Cell Leukemia short after.
Within the first week, the Chitwood family received their first Hannah's Care Package.
"I didn't know what it was. A friend delivered it," said mom, Kim Chitwood. "We weren't anticipating being in the hospital at all. I just knew I wasn't leaving Jared. I had nothing (with me), not clothes or toiletry items. (The package) was a true blessing."
Among the items in the Chitwood's package was a handmade blanket that became Jared's favorite during his hospital stay.
Despite a hard fight and nearing the maintenance phase of treatment, Jared developed complications resulting in a fungal infection. On March 22, Jared passed away leaving behind his mother, his father, Todd, and brothers, Justin and Brandon.
Kim described Jared as kind and funny young man who, realizing how Hannah's Care Packages had touched his family, wanted to volunteer for the ministry and help others in similar circumstances.
While Jared didn't get a chance to do so, Kim said she wanted to give back for him by giving donations and sometimes being the one to deliver packages.
"I don't have my baby, I can't change that. But I can give back in his honor," Kim said. "Hospitals are such a lonely place. Some people don't have family living near by or someone to talk to about something other than why they are there. That's why I love what Hannah's Care Packages is doing."
Ryan Cremeens was 8 years old when he was diagnosed with Rhadomyosarcoma after his parents noticed something wasn't quite right with his left eye. A scan at UK Children's Hospital revealed a tumor.
Having received 42 weeks of chemotherapy and seven weeks of proton radiation, Ryan has no evidence of disease, something mom Angie is thankful for. But during his treatment, on a day he was receiving chemo, the Cremeens family got a package from Hannah's.
"Just to know we had (their) support meant the world," said Angie."We knew we weren't fighting this alone."
Since being a Hannah's recipient, the Cremeens have donated supplies and Ryan, now age 11, has even helped deliver packages.
"He loves helping out," Angie continued. "He wants to share his story with other kids going through this, so they know they aren't alone."
According to Hannah's Care Packages co-founder and president Jessica Ball, the ministry is more than delivering necessities. It is about delivering hope, love and encouragement to families, supporting them while they focus on their children, and sticking with them through the good and the bad.
"We get pretty close to some of these families," said Ball. "We treat them as if they were our own. So when a loss happens, we grieve along with them. It's hard to see our families endure loss, but we try to stay strong for them."
Ball said she hopes Hannah's impacts not jut the parents' lives but also the children's who, one day, may be inspired to do good for others. The co-founder said she believes the ministry will be going on long after she is gone, because it's based on the principle of taking care of others.
"That's the love of Christ," she said. "(That's) something that will never fade."
For more information on Hannah's Care Packages, visit hannahscarepackages.org.