As executive director of the Me Fine Foundation, which helps kids facing critical and chronic illnesses, and a dad of a young son with spina bifida, Joey Powell knows well the joy that comes from putting a smile on those kids faces.
The kids that Powell works with through the local nonprofit often spend months in the hospital or suffer through regular treatments that can be uncomfortable and even painful. They need to be able to celebrate their own moments. They also just need to be a kid.
So, Me Fine recently launched the SuperKids Capes program, which provides custom-made superhero capes for kids who have finished a treatment or reached a milestone. The idea came from Powell's wife, who read about a similar program online and purchased one for their son.
Powell said the capes help these young children connect with their inner superhero.
"These kids really do have super powers," he said. "They are so much stronger than any of us."
For more than a decade, the Me Fine Foundation has provided resources and financial help to parents and caregivers with children being treated at Duke and UNC children's hospitals. The program helps families with everything from paying their mortgage bill, groceries and travel expenses to offering emotional support during treatments and hospital stays.
Often the foundation is the last line of defense for parents struggling with the serious diagnosis of a child, but also the financial impact that can come from medical bills or making the tough decision to keep their job or give it up to be with their child in the hospital.
"Our major goal is to make sure we are doing everything we can to help families," Powell said.
The capes, created by the sewing guild at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Clayton, include a child's favorite colors. They offer some happy moments for the kids, but also give them a chance to own their treatment, Powell said.
"There's a lot of mindfulness associated with having a kid being treated," he said. "You want these kids to just appreciate individual moments. It allows them to be a kid for a second, but it [also] allows them to not worry about the tubes or blood draws or surgeries or chemotherapy."
His own son's cape hangs in this room. He wore it in the family's first photo session.
"I think my wife got a lot out of it, too," he said. "It was kind of cathartic for her, too."
It costs just $20 to sponsor a cape for a child, Powell said. The group is ready for any and all donations to keep the kids they serve in capes. They'd also love to partner with a corporate sponsor to keep the program going. There's more information on Me Fine's website.
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