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Peggy Dolan Gives Talk about the Impact of Serious Illness on Patients and Their Families

October 1, 2012

Peggy Dolan, Executive Director of the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund, gave a presentation at the Friends Select School on October 25. Her talk, titled “The Other Side of Medicine: the emotional, physical, and financial turbulence of serious illness on patients and their families,” revealed just a few of the many heart wrenching stories of suffering families that Peggy has encountered during the twenty-nine years she has led the fund.

“Peggy Dolan speaks from the heart and from experience with years of care for families in crisis,” Dean Donnelly said as she introduced the speaker. “The mother of three daughters, Peggy and her late husband Joe lived through the traumas, treatments, and financial costs of the cancer diagnosis of their two young daughters.” Peggy’s own daughter, Kelly Anne, died at the age of six from leukemia.

“I’m going to tell you a story about paying it forward,” Peggy began. Peggy and Joe Dolan established a memorial fund to honor their daughter on October 6, 1976, the day after Kelly Anne passed away. The Fund’s first $8,000 in income came from those who attended Kelly’s funeral. Since that time, the Fund has grown in size dramatically, assisting more than 12,000 families in crisis whose children have terminal and chronic illnesses or serious disabilities or injuries. An extensive and generous network that Peggy and her team have cultivated during the past three decades donates funds, services, and products that are all desperately needed by the families the Fund serves. “It doesn’t matter where you live or what kind of car you drive,” Peggy said. “Everyone in that hospital is in the same boat. Everyone’s praying for a cure.”

A portion of the large audience in attendance included current students in the nursing and health professions programs, to whom Peggy said, “You can bring joy to a child who’s been traumatized and friendship to families who are worn emotionally.” Peggy remembered several of the nurses and health professionals that became some of Kelly’s best friends toward the end of her life. One creative nurse even brought a blanket and basket full of food to Kelly’s room at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, got down on the floor with Peggy and Kelly, and had a fun picnic lunch! Dean Donnelly emphasized to the students in the audiences that they can use their careers to play a role in creating a sense of stability for patients and families affected by serious illnesses, disabilities, and injuries.

The Kelly Anne Dolan Fund is unique compared to other funds in that it’s general and not disease-specific. The Fund also helps some of the same families year after year, whereas other funds have a limit for how many dollars can be put toward helping a family. After that limit’s reached, those funds often have to stop the support. The Kelly Anne Dolan Fund also responds to critical requests and referrals within 24 to 72 hours of receiving them.

If you know a struggling family with one or more children with a serious illness, injury, or disability, do not hesitate to refer them to the fund. You can do this on the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund website.