Cancer support group starts for kids

Therapists and parents are organizing a local branch of Kids Konnected — a national organization founded on the premise that when a parent gets cancer, the entire family is affected, especially the children.

When Ginny Auer's husband, Troy Hemmerling, was diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer on Nov. 9, 2009, life shifted dramatically for Hemmerling, Auer, and their 5-year old daughter, Tess.

"My hope is we reach any child or family who is dealing with this," said Auer. "My focus is on getting my husband well and getting my child what she needs."

Months of treatments have slid into years. And Auer continues to support her husband's battle with his rare and aggressive form of cancer. She also continues to keep an open and age-appropriate dialog going with the now 6-year old Tess.

They have read books that deal with the topic of a parent having cancer. They have discussed what it means when daddy loses his hair. They have even discussed the question, "Is daddy going to die?" Auer said.

But even though Auer's communication is good with her emotionally articulate daughter, Auer knows Tess may need someone else safe to talk to about her feelings, and to realize other kids are going through the same challenges. So she started looking in the community for therapeutic support.

Auer knew a little about Kids Konnected, and she allied herself with therapists Chelsea Davis and Kate Caldwell. Together the trio have started a new branch of the national organization.

Kids Konnected can help both parents and children by providing a safe place for everyone to discuss their fears and worries, organizers said.

"The whole idea is to help the parent help the child," Caldwell said. "Right now we've got enough kids for (one) group (for younger children). The hope is that the program will keep going and expanding to include older kids."

The first of the twice-monthly free therapeutic workshops is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 1 and will serve a group of seven children ages 4 to 8 years old, said Caldwell

For more information call Caldwell at 541-857-1201 or Davis at 541-779-2390. Or visit

— Sanne Specht

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