Family Advocate

The Rypien Foundation funds a full-time and a part-time pediatric oncology Family Advocate position at Providence Sacred Heart Children's Hospital. These positions are essential as they work very closely with the pediatric oncology patients and their families helping them with the day-to-day navigation of the health care system so that parents can devote their time to what really matters - their children.

Pediatric oncology social workers help a child and his/her family cope from the moment of diagnosis through the end of treatment. They help families adjust to the diagnosis and changes created in their lives, in addition to helping the child and family maintain a "new normal" way of living. Social workers also provide direct emotional support and emotional interventions, help identify resources, and advocate for the child and family needs. Additionally, social workers help families navigate through the medical system, bridging the connections between the family and the medical team.


Music Therapy

The atmosphere in a Pediatric Oncology wing at Sacred Heart can often be full of tension and stress as children and their families wait for uncomfortable procedures, intrusive lab draws, frightening chemo treatments and uncertain visits with doctors. For these children and their families, the Music Therapy program provides a much needed distraction from the anxiety associated with cancer treatment and helps to create an atmosphere more suited to healing.

The program is modeled after many other successful programs across the country and is run by a certified Music Therapist. As accredited health professionals, Music Therapists use proven techniques to help improve the health and well-being of patients. The position typically requires either a Bachelor's or Master's Degree in Music Therapy and therapists can also receive a certification from the Certification Board for Music Therapy (CBMT) by fulfilling continuing education requirements and passing a rigorous exam. Since November of 2007, the Rypien Foundation has funded the part-time Music Therapist who coordinates the Music Therapy program at Sacred Heart.

Through the program, children are engaged in singing, drumming, dancing and personal instrument instruction. Through these activities and many more, children are given an outlet to express their hopes and fears, concerns and dreams in a non-threatening environment. For some patients, especially younger children who might not have the vocabulary to appropriately express their feelings, this might be the only avenue they have to work through the whirlwind of emotions that consume them.

Music therapy not only reduces stress and provides an outlet for emotions, it's also been proven to help increase the self-esteem of patients. And anyone who has watched a child lose her hair understands how important solid self-esteem can be during this unbelievably frightening time. The increased confidence they develop by learning how to play an instrument or write songs also bleeds over into other aspects of their lives and can go a long way toward helping them believe in the likelihood of positive outcomes for all their endeavours - including their cancer treatments.

Music Therapy has proven to be effective for any age. And the goal of the program at Sacred Heart is to make it available to any child who wants it. Because while it might not be a miracle cure, it can definitely be the key to lifting children's spirits to a place where their disease no longer defines them.

"Sophie adores Terry!! Terry is such a blessing to her and our whole family! She lifts Sophie's spirit and takes away the worry and nervousness of the treatments when we are at Sacred Heart. Participating in music therapy is something Sophie looks forward to every appointment. We love Terry!!"

"The music therapist is great. My daughter looks forward to her visits to the hospital because she gets to sing and play instruments with Terry. I think she has a great impact on the patients. My daughter loves her!"

Sheldon Maul Courage Fund - Emergency Travel Assistance

It’s easy to see how someone could become bitter and withdrawn after being diagnosed with cancer – especially at an early age. What takes infinitely more courage is to face that diagnosis with a kind and generous spirit that will inspire everyone around you. And that’s exactly what Sheldon Maul did. In the 20 years he was on this earth, Sheldon lived every single day to the fullest, and he did it wearing a smile on his face that was as powerful as it was contagious. As a way to honor that inspiring spirit, we have established the Sheldon Maul Courage Fund to help provide financial assistance to children and their families who are battling cancer. 

The Emergency Travel Assistance program helps children with especially rare or aggressive forms of cancer afford to travel outside of Spokane for the specialized treatment they need. While this step can sometimes mean the difference between a clean bill of health and an unthinkable alternative, the cost can be overwhelming to families who are already burdened with extensive medical bills. By providing these children and their families with the financial assistance to go seek the treatment that might only be available in one or two cities in the nation, the Sheldon Maul Courage Fund is helping to give these courageous children the hope they need to have a fighting chance at the kind of life Sheldon inspired all of us to live!


Smiles Program

The Rypien Foundation started the Smiles Program to offer free orthodontic treatment plans to pediatric oncology patients and survivors. To date, several children from the Inland Northwest have received necessary orthodontic care with outstanding results! Here is how the program works. The Rypien Foundation covers all the hard costs for each patient's customized treatment plan and relies on the generosity of a group of qualified local orthodontists to donate their time and services.

All orthodontic care is then offered free of charge to the patient. Patient enrollment is based on Doctor / Staff recommendation and participation is completely voluntary.

Orthodontic care not only alleviates and prevents potential physical health problems, but also gives these patients dazzling smiles and a boost of confidence and improved self-image - in light of all the challenges they have endured.

Oral Care Fund

For children diagnosed with cancer, the battle against the disease is likely the greatest struggle they will ever have to overcome. But it is far from the only one. Because the treatment is so aggressive, many of these children will have to endure extremely adverse side effects that could impact them for the rest of their lives. The Rypien Foundation has established an Oral Care Fund to assist child cancer survivors who are struggling with severe dental issues as a result of their prolonged cancer treatments. One of the least known - but often one of the most prominent - side effects impacts the patient's teeth and gums. Because young teeth and jaws are still developing, chemotherapy and radiation can seriously damage the developing tooth and bone tissue resulting in increased cavities, crumbling of teeth, and even complete tooth loss. When this happens, young cancer survivors are forced to get dentures or dental implants, but because most dental insurance won't cover the costs of these procedures, families who have already spent a small fortune on essential cancer treatments are left wondering how they're going to come up with the cost of dental work that has been deemed "non-essential" by the insurance companies. All too often, it's an expense the families simply can't afford, and that leads to yet another trial these children and their families are forced to endure. The Rypien Foundation's Oral Care Fund i determined to change that. By providing much needed funds to cancer survivors who require dental assistance, the Oral Care Fund can help these children move past their disease and give these inspiring children their smiles back.  

Family Support Night

The idea of a Family Support Night stems from wanting to not only offer emotional support and education to Pediatric oncology families, but to support family togetherness and connection among families going through similar cancer experiences.

The night consists of a family dinner, sponsored by the Rypien foundation, followed by group activities. Participants are broken into three separate groups: Adult parents and family members, teens, and kids. Both the teen and Kids groups are made up of patients and siblings. The Kids group encompasses a night of therapeutic games, crafts, team building and emotional expression. Teens engage in similar activities with a "teen spin" which is geared for this older population. The parents support one another in discussion and sharing, therapeutic activities and education. Lastly, the night comes to an end with a large family game to support family togetherness, laughter as medicine and to down right just have some fun. The group is held once a month, on the second Wednesday of the month from 6-8 P.M. on the 4th floor of the Children's Hospital. All oncology families are welcome. The groups are facilitated by ACCOIN representatives, the family advocate, social workers, child life specialists, art therapists, chaplains, cancer survivors and social work interns.

Temporary Lodging

Certain circumstances may require patients to stay over night when receiving treatments; for families who travel long distances this can cause a real strain to their finances. To help lessen this strain, the Rypien Foundation works with the local Holiday Inn Express to provide hotel accommodations for these families. Since 2006, the Foundation has provided over 1,000 night stays for families.

Entertainment Activities

The Rypien Foundation understands the importance for families to maintain social and recreational activities. For kids with cancer, these activities play a large role in a young patient’s rehabilitation and recovery. To promote family togetherness, the Foundation provids families with tickets to Spokane Chiefs hockey games, Spokane Indians Baseball games, tickets to the Disney on Ice Show and other fun events at the Spokane Arena.