You’re in for a treat today, Smarties. I recently caught up with Claire’s Army founder Emily Ratliff to hear about all the amazing things going on with the organization. In case you don’t know Emily, click here to read our first interview with her in 2017. She is one amazing Smarty momma who is keeping the memory of her angel, Claire, alive by doing so much good for others in our city.
Don’t forget to head over to Providence United Methodist Church this Saturday, February 9, for Claire’s Army’s annual Pancake Breakfast and Blood Drive. Come casual (pajamas are acceptable!), bring the kids, and get ready for a delicious pancake breakfast. There will be kids activities like a balloon artist, the one-and-only Tinkerbell, a Valentine’s card crafting station, and an appearance by Miss North Carolina. Such a fun morning! More details here and below.
Catching up with Claire’s Army’s Emily Ratliff
Tell us briefly about how Claire’s Army got started and what your mission is.
Claire’s Army was launched in response to learning about the greater needs families face when battling pediatric cancer and the desire to give back to others the way we were supported when Claire was in treatment. Friends, family, and strangers brought us (the Ratliff family) meals for over a year; sent gasoline, grocery, and restaurant gift cards; cared for our dog; provided respite from the dark days; and so much more. This Army allowed us to focus on Claire and remove other distractions from our life. We had no idea she would only be in treatment and suddenly go to heaven after only 9 months. Kevin and I are able to rest assured that we maximized our time with her thanks to this gracious support network.
Claire’s Army strives to act as God’s hands and feet by providing support for families fighting childhood cancer. Through an established network of resources, we will support the families’ daily responsibilities allowing them to put their time and focus on their child.
Tell us a little bit about what you’ve been up to over the last 18 months.
Claire’s Army has grown each of our 3 programs (Claire Packages, Hospital Meal Deliveries, and Emergency Assistance) over the last 18 months. As of July 2017, we were only offering these programs at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital because of our close relationships there and limited funding. Claire Packages were being distributed to the approximate 50 newly-diagnosed patients; our volunteers were delivering free meals (custom-ordered dinners from local restaurants) 4 nights each week to every pediatric cancer patient and his/her family; we were making rent, mortgage, and utility payments on behalf of families in crisis. All the while, we were talking to Levine Children’s to understand more about their patient needs and how we could help. We hosted our first gala in August of 2017 with over 400 guests to recruit and rally support. Thanks to an outpouring of donations, we launched the Claire Package program at Levine Children’s in August of 2017, impacting an additional 150 children and families each year. We hosted 425 passionate and generous guests at our second annual gala in August of 2018 and were overwhelmed with love and gifts. Just a few months later, we were able to add the 5th night of meal deliveries to patients and families at Hemby Children’s Hospital. We’re actively working with the team at Levine Children’s to launch the Hospital Meal Delivery program there in February and learn more about how we can help families in crisis. Claire’s Army is fortunate to engage with over 200 volunteers annually to bring our mission to life. They have allowed us to deliver over 1000 meals each year, distribute hundreds of Claire Packages, share our story, and strengthen our infrastructure so we may impact families for many years!
You’re now providing meals to families in both Novant Health’s Hemby Children’s Hospital and Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital. How important was it to you to have a presence in both?
We are providing Claire Packages to EVERY patient and family who is newly diagnosed with pediatric cancer in Charlotte (approximately 200) – at both Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital and Atrium Health Levine Children’s. This program started at Hemby because Claire was treated there and we had the capacity to meet the needs of their patients. We knew we wanted to make an impact for ALL Charlotte families affected, and thanks to the response from this community, we were able to launch the Claire Package program at Levine Children’s in August of 2017. While we don’t like the reason that families are touched by Claire’s Army, we LOVE wrapping our arms and this community around them during such a horrific time. Knowing that we can provide hope, comfort, and convenience at these families’ pain point drives us to do more. We also know that we are continuing Claire’s legacy of unconditional love and care.
You’ve got an upcoming Pancake Breakfast and Blood Drive. What can people expect and, more importantly, can we show up in our pajamas? 🙂
They can expect GOOD FOOD, FUN, GREAT FELLOWSHIP. George Brooks is mixing his famous BrooksCakes, grits, and bacon for our guests (we’re planning on 500), along with plenty of fresh fruit and hot coffee. Tinkerbell and Ms. North Carolina (Chelsie Kryst) will be making appearances, along with balloon twisters, crafts and legos for the kids! We have over 20 raffle packages – with something for everyone in the family to enjoy. The Community Blood Center of the Carolinas will have two blood mobiles ready to accept donations. It’s super fun and super casual – show up in sweats, shorts or sneakers! We love meeting new recruits as well as seeing the faces of returning guests each year.
Tell us about some other fundraisers you have in the pipeline for 2019 and how we can get involved with Claire’s Army.
Our other signature event is the 2019 Claire’s Army Gala on Saturday, August 3rd at the Fillmore. We packed the house last year with 425 guests – all who came to be part of something greater and make a direct impact right here in Charlotte. Tickets will go on sale in just a few months – follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates!
Our meal program requires dedicated volunteers to deliver dinners (from local restaurants) 5 nights per week to our children’s hospitals. Interested volunteers can email firstname.lastname@example.org for all the details! Claire’s Army is growing and serving more families each year thanks to donors and connectors. Opening the door for potential corporate sponsors is always welcome and we’d love to hear how you’d like to personally help.
Claire’s Army Pancake Breakfast and Blood Drive
Date: Saturday, February 9th
Time: 8:30am – 11:30am
Location: Providence United Methodist Church 2810 Providence Road
Cost: $10 for adults; $5 for children 12 and under. Purchase tickets here
Blood Drive Hours: 8:00am-12:00pm
Walk-ins are welcome, but we encourage you to schedule a donation appointment: www.cbcc.us/signup and enter ID 51101-37007 with the date 2/9/2019.