A nonprofit helping families find joy despite a child's illness hopes to expand in Northeast Indiana

When illness becomes part of a child’s life, the day-to-day begins to look a lot different. Instead of running around outside, there’s running to the hospital. Rather than making friends, there's making choices. It can put a carefree childhood on pause.

That’s where A Kid Again comes into play. 

A Kid Again is a national nonprofit based in Columbus, Ohio, that seeks to create opportunities for kids to feel like, well, kids. It does so through frequent “adventures,” which offer fun activities for the whole family to enjoy. Sometimes adventures are as simple as a bowling night; other times they’re big trips to amusement parks like Kings IslandPapas

Katie Papas is the Executive Director of A Kid Again’s Indiana chapter based in Indianapolis and looking to expand the program's work in Fort Wayne. She has seen the impact of these adventures firsthand.

“This last weekend a mom came up to me afterward and said ‘I can’t tell you how much we needed this,’” Pappas says. “Her father had just passed away from COVID, and on top of everything they were already going through, she said just having something fun on their calendar gave them hope.”

At the end of the day, A Kid Again's goal is to bring joy back to children and families.

Often, Pappas finds that these adventures provide small moments for families to forget their daily life struggles and create memories together, as well as connect with other families in similar situations. The unique experiences a child's illness brings can often feel isolating or difficult to process for all members of the family, but adventures bring together families who can truly empathize with one another.

When Pappas first began working with A Kid Again, she coordinated every event and communicated with every family. As the number of participants grew, her role transitioned into coordinating community support, but she still attends every adventure. The sighs of relief, bubbling laugher, and comforting hugs remind her of why her work is so important. 

As a young adult, a mentor told her, “One of the most important things you can do in life is to make an impact on someone else’s life.” As Pappas moved onto college and her career, she carried this advice with her and pursued nonprofit work. Specifically, she favored working with children, previously working for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

A family qualifies to participate in A Kid Again if a child has any life-threatening illness.

When A Kid Again was looking to expand in Indiana, she fell in love with its mission. 

“You know, these families did not raise their hand to be in the situation they’re in,” Pappas says. “I think it's just important that the community around them provides as much support as possible.”

Over the years, Pappas has made dear friendships with various A Kid Again families. She often gets texts with updates on their treatments, school happenings, or accomplishments. She gets to follow alongside families as they grow, overcome, or even grieve. 

Over the years, Pappas has made dear friendships with various A Kid Again families.

Pappas, with her bubbly demeanor, was clearly meant to be working with children. A Kid Again brings much joy to her life. However, she still cries when talking about the two children who have passed away since she began hosting adventures. She keeps their photos posted in her office.

“These children are warriors and their families are incredibly strong,” Pappas says. “And so, you can’t help, but form a passion and a willingness to help them in whatever they need. I think focusing on helping them make a memory together is what gets me through. Because in the instance of these two kiddos, they were able to attend a handful of adventures with us, and now, I know that their families have that memory together.”

A family qualifies to participate in A Kid Again if a child has any life-threatening illness.

Moving forward, Pappas just wants as many families as possible to be able to participate in A Kid Again. Currently, A Kid Again has 210 families enrolled with adventures located primarily in central Indiana, but are looking to grow into Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana. According to Pappas, there are an estimated 10,000 families or more in the Fort Wayne area who would be eligible to participate in A Kid Again. 

A family qualifies to participate if their child has any life-threatening illness. Enrollment simply involves submitting paperwork about the illness. A Kid Again will be able to host more events in the Fort Wayne area as more local families enroll or local businesses support the effort.

In the times of COVID-19, A Kid Again has adapted its events to include social distancing and other precautions.

In the times of COVID-19, A Kid Again has adapted its events to include social distancing and other precautions. They have even done “adventures in a box,” where activities are sent by mail for families to enjoy at home. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to bring joy back to these children and families.

“We aren’t a wish-granting organization, we are something that’s in your backyard, something that is local,” Pappas says. “That’s the kind of support network that’s really valuable for your overall health…, and that’s what we’re trying to build in Fort Wayne.”
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